Child abuse and neglect: A parent’s responsibility begins at conception

Child abuse and neglect: A parent’s responsibility begins at conception

When most people hear the words “child abuse” or “neglect,” the images that often come to mind include physical violence towards children, exposing children to unsanitary or unsafe conditions, or failing to provide health care or nutrition. Such instances of child abuse and neglect may result in DCFS taking custody of the child. But what about mothers who do not protect the safety and well-being of their unborn baby?


Illinois law protects the rights and well-being of unborn babies as it relates to harm caused by drug usage of the mother. Under 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(c), a neglected child includes:


“any newborn infant whose blood, urine, or meconium contains any amount of a controlled substance as defined in subsection (f) of Section 102 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, as now or hereafter amended, or a metabolite of a controlled substance, with the exception of controlled substances or metabolites of such substances, the presence of which in the newborn infant is the result of medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant;”


Additionally, a mother whose baby tests positive for the presence of drugs in his or her system (with the exception of medication prescribed by a doctor) after birth may be found guilty of committing battery, provided that she knowingly did so. Under Illinois law, 720 ILCS 5/12-3.1(a)(b),


“a person commits a battery of an unborn child if he or she knowingly without legal justification and by any means causes bodily harm to an unborn child,” and “commits aggravated battery of an unborn child when, in committing a battery of an unborn child, he or she knowingly causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to an unborn child.”


In other words, whether the child is born or unborn, a mother who knowingly exposes her child to a harmful substance or neglects to provide the care that her child needs may be found guilty of child abuse or neglect. One example of this type of abuse is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is a syndrome caused by the consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy. Symptoms of FAS include mental and physical development problems, such as small head circumference, low birth weight, epilepsy, failure to thrive, facial abnormalities, social development disorders, and many other behavioral and physical disorders. Additionally, if a child is born with a drug dependency, consequently undergoing drug withdrawal, the mother will be charged with neglect. Like all other scenarios involving child abuse or neglect, when a mother is found to have abused or neglected her unborn child, DCFS may take the baby into custody once he or she is born.


For more information on situations involving child abuse or neglect, feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.

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