Laws pertaining to child neglect can also be found in Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. There are also laws pertaining to child neglect in Title 18 of the CRS, which is the criminal code used by law enforcement when determining if a criminal offense has taken place. Law enforcement and Child Protective Services often work together when investigating child neglect.
CRS 19-1-103(1)(a)(III) defines child neglect as, “Any case in which a child is a child in need of services because the child’s parents, legal guardian, or custodian fails to take the same actions to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision that a prudent parent would take.” In addition, CRS 19-3-102 (1) (c) states that a child is neglected or dependent if, “The child’s environment is injurious to his or her welfare”.
Basically, child neglect is a failure on the part of a caregiver to provide basic things to the child that a prudent parent would provide to keep his or her child alive, physically healthy and safe from harm. Child Protective Services breaks neglect down into six basic categories to help clarify different ways in which a caretaker may not be providing adequately for the child. These categories are as follows:
- Deprivation of Necessities
- Environment Injurious
- Educational Neglect
- Medical Neglect
- Failure to Protect
- Lack of Supervision/Supervision Inconsistent with Child’s Needs
Deprivation of Necessities:
A deprivation of necessities would be what most people think of when they think of child neglect. In this category, a caretaker would be neglecting a child by not providing necessary things like food, appropriate clothing, shelter, and a place to sleep.
An injurious environment would be an environment that is unhealthy or unsafe for a child. The child may not have been harmed yet from the environment, but the environment is such that if something is not done to change the environment or circumstances, or remove the child from the environment, the child could be at risk of severe harm in the future. Some factors that could create an injurious environment for a child would be things like domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and explosive behavior by the parent(s)/caretaker.
The physical residence could also create an injurious environment with conditions such as a bug or rodent infestation, animals that are not properly picked up after or cared for, rotting food, access to chemicals, exposed wiring or other hazards, piles of items that could fall and injure a small child, dirty diapers, piles of trash, etc. When looking at physical health or safety hazards to a child, Child Protective Services takes into account the health or safety hazards, as well as the ages of the children in the home.
Educational neglect is a situation where a child is not receiving educational services because of an action or omission of the parent, not because of the actions of the child. Child Protective Services works with the school district when dealing with allegations of educational neglect, and often these reports are first forwarded to the district attendance director for follow up, as the attendance director has the ability to follow up with the family and even pursue court action if appropriate.
Medical neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker does not get a child needed medical attention, as determined by a medical professional. Medical neglect could include not getting a child treated for an injury or illness, and also could include not getting a child needed dental care of that lack of dental care is affecting the child’s health, ability to eat, or if it will cause the child these kinds of problems in the future.
Failure to Protect:
A parent or caretaker fails to protect a child when he or she knowingly allows someone else to harm or neglect the child. Failure to protect could also occur if a parent or caretaker knowingly allows the child to be unsupervised or inadequately supervised around someone who is known to have abused or neglected children previously, or is known to be dangerous.
Lack of Supervision/Supervision Inconsistent with Child’s Needs:
If a parent or caretaker leaves a child without adequate supervision given the child’s age and developmental level, regardless of whether or not the child is injured as a result, this would be considered a lack of supervision.
There is no specific age at which a child can legally be left alone in the state of Colorado, and parents or caretakers must consider the choice to leave a child unsupervised for periods of time carefully. Things that need to be taken into consideration include not only the child’s chronological age, but also the child’s maturity level, resources, and ability to act in case of emergency. Other things to consider would be who else will know the child is alone, are there neighbors or relatives in close proximity to check on the child, is the child watching other children, does the child know where the parent or caretaker is and when they will return, and can the child contact the parent, caretaker, or other responsible adult easily if needed. The Red Cross offers babysitting classes to children beginning at age 11.
The age of emancipation in Colorado is 18 years old. Parents are responsible for the care of their children until they are 18 years old.
Physical Indicators of Neglect:
- Underweight, poor growth, failure to thrive
- Consistent hunger, poor hygiene, improper dress
- Unattended physical problems or medical needs
- Consistent lack of supervision
Behavioral Indicators of Neglect:
- Begging or stealing food
- Poor school attendance
- Constant fatigue
- Assumes adult responsibilities
- Developmental Delays not otherwise explained