Child Abandonment in Illinois

Having a Child

Having a child is a right of passage that many couples eagerly await in their lives together. Potential parents spend months or even years preparing themselves for parenthood by reading books, putting money away in savings, and adapting their busy schedules to accommodate a new member into their family.

Other times though, having a child may be a sudden and unexpected experience. Today, many single unwed parents are having children without the support and resources that can adequately prepare them for the challenges ahead of them as a parent. Other parents are hit with unforeseen negative events like the sudden death of a spouse or the onset of medical illness that completely alters their abilities to take care of their children.

What is Child Abandonment?

According to the Illinois Statute governing child welfare, child abandonment occurs when a parent or someone in a guardian-type role who has physical control over the child knowingly leaves the child (under the age of 13) for a period of 24 hours or more, without someone who is at least 14 years old to supervise the child. By leaving the child alone, they are doing so “without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of the child.”

It is not considered child abandonment if the parent or guardian gives the child up under the guidelines of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. Illinois acknowledges that sometimes the environment into which a child is born is so toxic and unsafe for a child that there may be circumstances where it is better for the child to be turned over to a safe environment to avoid severe injury or death to the child.

This act allows parents to turn over a newborn infant to a safe environment and still remain anonymous without being subject to any civil or criminal penalties for giving up the child. The act also acknowledges that giving the child up through a proper adoption plan is the best solution, but allows this process as an alternative to protect the well-being of the child.

How Does The Court Determine If a Child Was Abandoned?

In determining whether a child was abandoned, a Court looks at the following factors:

  1. The child’s age;
  2. How many children are left at the location, for how long, and what time of day;
  3. The special needs of the child;
  4. Where the child was left and what the conditions were at that location;
  5. How far away the parent or guardian was and whether the child’s movement was restricted;
  6. Whether the child was given instructions about what to do in an emergency or was given food and other provisions;
  7. Whether the abandonment occurred due to economic issues or illness of the parent or guardian and whether he or she made a good faith effort to provide for the health and safety of the child;
  8. The age and physical and mental capabilities of the parent or guardian; and
  9. Whether someone else was supervising the child.

Child abandonment is considered a class 4 felony in Illinois. Class 4 felonies are punishable by up to a $25,000 fine and a possible one to three years of jail time.

Local Stories of Abandonment

This issue is happening every day in America. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a baby was found abandoned in the Gresham neighborhood of Chicago on a Friday evening in March, 2014. The baby is alive and in good health, but the police are still trying to locate the parents of the child.

Legal Resources

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about their legal rights as a parent, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced experienced family law attorneys in Wheaton today.