Watching a child struggle in life is never easy, especially if the child is one you love. Unfortunately, with the rise of opioid addiction, more families are facing the tragedy of parents who are unable or unwilling to care for their own children. In some cases, the parents leave the child for long periods without proper care or supervision, or they abandon the child altogether.
You may be the grandparent or other relative of a child in these circumstances, and you fully understand the long-term damage such abandonment can do, both physically and emotionally. You may wonder what your options are.
The many faces of child abandonment
Child abandonment can occur at many levels. You may have heard stories of parents who leave their babies in baskets on someone's porch, and that is certainly one example. However, your situation may be more like one of the following:
- The parents left the child with you, but gave no indication when they would return and offered no means of support for the child.
- The parents have left the child with you frequently in the past, or child protection authorities have removed the child from the home on more than one occasion.
- The parents have left the child in the home alone long enough that the child's life or health was in danger.
- The parents have made little or no efforts to visit, contact the child or provide financial support.
- Authorities have established a plan to reunite the parents with the child, but the parents failed to complete the program.
- The parents do not show up for meetings or appointments related to court orders or child protective actions.
- The parents do not want to care for the child or are unable to because of addiction, mental illness or other reasons.
Laws differ in various states and change frequently, so it is best to check with an attorney about your responsibilities in your situation. You may have a legal obligation to report the abandonment to law enforcement so they can file criminal charges.
There also may be further steps you must take if you wish to clear the way for you to seek legal guardianship or even adoption of the child. A compassionate Wisconsin attorney will advise you of the law as it pertains to your family and the most effective actions to take for the protection of the child.