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Defining abandonment in Texas

When people in San Antonio hear the term “child abandonment,” they may conjure up the classic image of a young mother leaving her child on the doorstep of an orphanage in the middle of the night. At first glance, statistics may seem to support this assumption. Information share by the Child Welfare Information Gateway shows that as of 2014, there were over 415,000 children in foster care in the U.S. Yet many of these children’s cases may not meet the assumed definition of abandonment. In fact, each state has its own guidelines determining when a child might be considered to be abandoned.

According to the Texas Family Code, the general definition of abandoned means being “left without provision for reasonable and necessary care or supervision.” When referencing the criminal charge of child abandonment, the state considers a child left in such conditions, or in a situation where (if the child is under the age of 15) he or she would be exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm, to be abandoned.

Abandoning a child in Texas may result in the involuntary termination of one’s parental rights. State law lists the following abandonment scenarios as cases where such rights may be taken away:

  •          If a child’s case meets the aforementioned definition of criminal child abandonment.
  •          If a child is left without a parent providing any ascertainable means of his or her identification.
  •          If a child is abandoned by a parent within six months of him or her being placed in the custody of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services.

If a father abandons a mother during her pregnancy, does not support her during the period of abandonment, and makes no effort to support the child immediately after birth, his parental rights may be terminated, as well. 

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