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Can Giving Children Freedom and Autonomy be Considered Child Neglect? 

 Posted on March 29, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Tarrant County Criminal Law AttorneyAs a parent, perfection is impossible. Child experts frequently change their minds about what is best for children, and parenting styles change with the times. So, it is understandable that parents may struggle to find a balance between giving their children freedom and autonomy while also providing them with the necessary guidance and support they need to develop into responsible adults.

Some parents choose to give their children ample freedom, allowing them to stay home alone, take public transportation, or make decisions about their own clothing and meals. However, permissive parenting styles such as "free-range parenting" can sometimes lead to accusations of child neglect.

The Line Between Leniency and Neglect is Not Always Clear

In a world where parents can use smartphones and other devices to be in constant communication with their children and track their every move, it can be difficult to discern what is considered an appropriate amount of freedom. Should children be allowed to stay home by themselves for a day? What about overnight? Can they ride their bikes to a neighbor's house down the block? The answers to questions are not always clear.

For example, Texas law has no official rule for when a child is old enough to stay home alone. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website states that parents must consider their child's maturity level, the safety of their home environment, and the risks in their neighborhood when deciding when a child is old enough to be at home without supervision.

With so much gray area, it is not surprising that some well-meaning parents find themselves facing a Child Protective Services investigation or even criminal charges for their permissive parenting choices.

Texas Law on Child Abandonment and Endangerment

Whether you are currently facing charges or just want to be as informed as possible, it is important to know what Texas law considers to be neglect.

The Texas Penal Code states that a parent is guilty of “Abandoning or Endangering a Child” if the parent:

  • Intentionally abandons the child 14 years old or younger in a place or under circumstances that expose him or her to an unreasonable risk of harm.

  • Intentionally or negligently behaves in a way that places a child 14 years old or younger in imminent danger of bodily injury, mental impairment, or death.

Certain circumstances are automatically considered a risk to children. For example, the law states that it is presumed that an individual places a child in imminent danger of injury or death if the individual possessed or manufactured methamphetamine in the presence of a child. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, abandoning or endangering a child may be a state jail felony, third-degree felony, or second-degree felony, all of which have life-changing legal consequences.

Contact our Plano Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been accused of child neglect, abandonment, or endangerment, contact The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. for legal help. Our Collin County criminal defense attorneys know that parents sometimes face unjust accusations and that the law is not always clear when it comes to giving children freedom and autonomy. Call 214-544-0061 for a confidential consultation.




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