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Collin County criminal defense attorney child neglect

You may think that there is a clear line between child neglect and a more laissez-faire approach to parenting. When you imagine parents being charged with neglect and abandonment, you picture a child at home alone for days, struggling to care for himself or herself. The parents that you might picture in your head are risking their child’s safety to sustain their substance addiction. While this is, unfortunately, a common reality for those facing child neglect charges in Texas, others may be facing such charges based on their hands-off approach to caring for their child. Also known as “free-range parenting,” there is debate about whether or not this relaxed parenting style makes children more independent or places kids in harm’s way.

Free-Range Parenting Explained

In 2018, Utah passed a law that addressed different parenting styles and set a line for what is considered free-range parenting and what is considered neglect and abandonment. In the age of smartphones, parents have constant contact with their children, either through text message updates or actually tracking their child’s location. Many argue that this is a blessing and allows parents to fully protect their children in a way that was unavailable to previous generations. Others, however, believe that this constant contact and watchfulness can stunt kids’ individuality and ability to navigate the world on their own. Advocate Lenore Skenazy started the movement almost a decade ago after she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway by himself. Since then, Utah passed the country’s first law to legalize this form of parenting to give children the freedom to do things on their own, with their parents’ permission. This includes activities such as exploring a playground, riding a bike to school, or allowing your child to remain home alone at a young age without a parent’s supervision. Some view this type of parenting as a nod to “the olden days” while others see it as the failure to protect your child. Texas does not have such a law in place, leaving some of these more radically viewed parental decisions up to the court’s discretion.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney child abuse

Child abuse is a tragedy that happens all too frequently across the world. In Texas, an average of more than four children die from abuse or neglect every week and 184 kids are confirmed victims on a daily basis. As a parent, it may seem unimaginable how an adult can hurt a child or how the statistics can be this high in a single state alone. The cruelty behind child abuse is undeniable, which can unfortunately lead to quick judgments from the court and unfounded convictions. False accusations of child abuse or neglect are not uncommon when it comes to divorce or adjustments in child custody orders. Criminal actions like those committed by Justin Fountain, a father from East Texas, should be charged in a harsh manner, as shown below. However, those facing false accusations should seek out immediate legal help from a reputable criminal defense attorney to avoid facing severe consequences for a crime they did not commit.

Texas Man Found Guilty of Injuring Daughter

In early October of this year, a man from Cherokee County was convicted of child abuse. Fountain is the father of an infant daughter whom he caused serious bodily injury to in 2019. He admitted to shaking and throwing her down after he became upset with her. Her father also blew marijuana smoke into her face to “calm her down.” According to the child’s pediatrician and adoptive parents, she still suffers ill effects from her injuries that were inflicted last year. A year later, Fountain has been sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted of child abuse in Texas.

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Dallas criminal defense attorney child neglect

Parents are legally responsible for providing their children with the care and attention they need to be safe. As children get older, they gradually begin to gain the skills necessary to look after themselves. It can be hard to know when a child is responsible enough to be left alone. If you are like many parents, you may have wondered, “At what age is it appropriate to leave my child at home alone?” Texas law does not state an exact age after which a parent may leave a child at home without supervision. However, there are circumstances in which a parent can face significant civil consequences and even criminal charges for leaving a minor child home alone.  

Texas Laws Regarding Child Neglect

Texas law requires parents and guardians to provide children with adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care. Failure to provide these basic necessities may constitute child neglect. A parent may also be accused of neglect if he or she allows a child to be in an unsafe situation that exposes the child to a significant risk of physical or mental harm. Child neglect is a civil offense in Texas, but it is often accompanied by criminal charges. Accusations of child neglect may lead to an investigation from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). If DFPS investigators find evidence of significant neglect or abuse, the child may be removed from the home. 

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Dallas child abuse defense attorney

For many parents, the way they raise their children is substantially different than the way that they were raised. Parents may assume that leaving their children in the car while they are shopping or otherwise engaged is not unsafe simply because they remember waiting in the car alone when they were a child. However, states are increasingly enacting legislation designed to prevent parents from leaving children unsupervised in vehicles. In 2019, 52 children passed away after being left in hot cars. In order to prevent these tragic deaths, Texas has made it illegal to leave children alone in vehicles under certain circumstances.

Leaving a Child in a Car May Be Considered a Criminal Offense

Texas is known for its extremely hot summers. Hot and humid weather makes the risk of a child developing heatstroke or dying in a hot car especially high. Many parents who leave their children in the car only intend to be gone for a few minutes, however, it only takes 10 minutes for an average car to heat up by 19 degrees. The Texas Department of State Health Services urges parents to teach children not to play inside of cars and to never leave a young child in a car unsupervised. 

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Fort Worth child abuse and neglect defense attorney

Many parents who are contacted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) are shocked when they realize that they are being investigated for potential child abuse or neglect. While many child protective investigations are the result of justified concerns regarding children’s safety, some investigations are the result of a misunderstanding or misinterpretation. If you are currently facing accusations of child neglect, child abuse, or domestic violence, it is possible that you will be investigated by the DFPS. Therefore, it is important to understand how Texas law handles these types of accusations of crimes against children

Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect

According to Texas law, anyone who reasonably believes that a child has been neglected or abused must report the possible mistreatment to law enforcement or the DFPS. The DFPS is required by law to investigate these reports and make a determination about the validity of the accusations.

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Tarrant County child endangerment defense attorney

When it comes to children, the terms “neglect” and “abandonment” are often used together; however, these are two separate legal issues. Child neglect is a term used in the Texas Family Code to describe a situation in which a child is left unattended in an unsafe environment. Abandoning a child is defined in Texas Penal Code as not providing “reasonable and necessary care for the child” and leaving the child in a situation that most reasonable adults would not allow. If you have been charged with child abandonment in Texas, the penalties can be severe. Speaking with a criminal defense attorney experienced in handling crimes against children can help clear your name and avoid a criminal record.

Being Accused of Child Neglect

According to Texas law, parents are responsible for providing children with necessities like food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and appropriate supervision. The Texas Family Code identifies several acts that are considered neglect. These include but are not limited to:

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Fort Worth child crimes defense attorney

Fall is just around the corner, but the hot weather in Texas has not relented. Many news outlets have run stories about the dangers of leaving children in cars during hot weather. Even when the outside temperature is only in the 70s or 80s, the temperature inside a car can climb much higher. Children left in hot vehicles can quickly become overheated and even die due to the extreme temperatures. According to the nonprofit group Kids and Cars, over 600 children have passed away in hot cars in the United States since 1990. You probably know that leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is dangerous, but you may wonder if it is considered a crime. In certain circumstances, leaving a child in a vehicle unattended constitutes a criminal charge in Texas.

Texas Penal Code Regarding Children Left in Cars

According to Texas law, there are certain situations in which it is against the law to leave a child unsupervised in a vehicle. The Texas Penal Code states that is a Class C misdemeanor criminal offense to knowingly leave a child in a motor vehicle if the child is all of the following: 

  • Under the age of 7

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Collin County child neglect defense lawyer

Every parent has their own unique parenting style, and rightfully so. Some parents get the nickname “helicopter parent” since they tend to be overprotective, while others are much more laid back, sometimes so much so that they are labeled a bad parent. Despite the preference of each parent, there are four common parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. Authoritarian parents use punishments more than discipline, teaching their child obedience. Authoritative parents enforce the rules but in a more positive fashion. Permissive parents use the theory “kids will be kids,” allowing their kids to make their own rules. Uninvolved parents do not provide much guidance or attention and are fairly detached from their kids. One particular type of parenting has gained attention in recent years for its “laissez-faire” outlook on parenting, with some declaring that this style constitutes child neglect.

What Is "Free-Range Parenting?"

Free-range parenting gives kids a lot of freedom with less supervision. According to a clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, “free-range parenting emphasizes the child’s functioning independently with judicious parental supervision.” This form of parenting does not mean there are no rules, but it allows kids to do many things on their own. The idea is to allow kids to make their own mistakes and learn from them without having their parents constantly by their side. The term was coined by Lenore Skenazy after she released an article about letting her 9-year-old son navigate the New York City subway alone. This story and this form of parenting have been under fire ever since. 

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