FAQs on child abandonment


What is child abandonment?

Child abandonment occurs when a parent of a child discontinues their parenting role, with no intention to resume it. This usually involves ‘dumping’ the child with friends or family. Child abandonment is unlawful under the 1861 Child Abandonment Law.

What happens if a child is abandoned?

When a child is abandoned, the authorities will usually first try to find the child’s parents and see if they can work with them to help the parents to continue parenting their child. However, if this is not possible they will usually try to find relatives or close friends who may be willing to take on the role of parenting the child. If there is no one who can help, the authorities may try to place the child with a foster family, either temporarily or with a view to establishing a permanent arrangement. Long term carers or foster parents may apply to legally adopt the child in the future.

What kind of orders can a court make?

A court can make a range of orders to protect the welfare of a child in need, such as:

  • Care orders
  • Supervision orders
  • Secure accommodation orders
  • Emergency protection orders

Can a parent be held responsible for child abandonment?

Under the 1861 Child Abandonment Law, it is a criminal offence for a parent to abandon a child under 2 years of age. However, in practice, legal action is not usually taken against the parent, as they may have underlying mental issues or problems with addiction.

Does a parent have to continue paying child support if they abandon their child?

The parents of a child have parental responsibility to support their child financially. This responsibility continues regardless of whether or not the parent remains in contact with the child. Even if the child refuses to see their parent, or the other parent does not allow for contact to take place, the responsibility to pay child support continues.

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