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What is Child Neglect?


Unfortunately, child neglect is a very serious problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that one in seven children in the U.S. have endured some form of child neglect. Even more alarmingly, the CDC believes that the true number is significantly higher because child neglect is systemically underreported. Here, our San Antonio CPS defense lawyer explains how child neglect is defined, highlights the signs to watch out for, and discusses the family law implications.

Child Neglect: The Legal Definition

In Texas, child neglect refers to a situation where a parent or guardian fails to provide proper care, supervision, shelter, food, medical attention, or education for a child. To be clear, it is not about an occasional, minor mistake. Instead, child neglect is a pattern of ignoring a child’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical or emotional. Physical neglect involves not providing enough food or clothing or failing to supervise a child safely. Emotional neglect includes ignoring a child’s emotional needs, like love, comfort, and security.

Know the Most Common Signs of Child Neglect

As a parent, grandparent, caregiver, or other loved one, it is imperative that you know the signs of child neglect. Any serious signs of physical neglect or emotional neglect should always be followed up on. Here are some of the most common signs of neglect:

  • Poor Hygiene: If the child often appears dirty, has severe body odor, or lacks proper clothing, it could be a sign of poor hygiene.
  • Health Issues: Does a child have serious untreated medical or dental problems? That could be a sign of child neglect.
  • Lack of Supervision: Supervision matters. If the child is often left alone or in unsafe situations, it could be neglected.
  • Inadequate Nourishment: The child may show signs of hunger or is underweight. A child who is severely underweight may be enduring neglect.
  • Unsafe Living Conditions: If the child’s living environment is dangerous or lacks basic utilities like water or electricity, that could be child neglect.

What Implications Does Child Neglect Have on a Family Law Case in Texas

In Texas, the law always looks at what is in the best interest of the child when it comes to family law cases like custody and visitation rights. If there is evidence of child neglect, it can significantly impact these decisions. Indeed, allegations of child neglect—even if no criminal case is ever initiated against a parent—can be considered as part of a custody/visitation case. If one parent is found to be neglectful, it can lead to them losing custody or having limited visitation rights. Indeed, the court may require supervised visits or order the parent to attend parenting classes or counseling.

Contact Our San Antonio CPS Defense Attorney Today

At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, our San Antonio child neglect lawyers have the skills and experience to defend parents. If you or a co-parent is facing any type of child neglect allegation, we are more than ready to help. Contact us today to set up your completely confidential, no-obligation initial consultation. With a legal office in San Antonio, we defend parents and families in child neglect cases in Bexar County and throughout the wider region.