Lt. Governor Brown Champions Legislation to Criminalize Child Neglect in Maryland
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 7, 2011) – This week, the Maryland General Assembly passed the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s Child Neglect Bill, legislation that will make intentional child neglect a criminal act in Maryland. Lt. Governor Anthony Brown worked closely with the General Assembly as well as numerous stakeholders, including prosecutors, public defenders, doctors, and child and domestic violence advocates to craft a bill that narrowly prosecutes adults who are clearly and egregiously neglecting their children.
The Senate passed the bill today by a vote of 41-5, while the House of Delegates passed matching legislation by a vote of 137-0 earlier this week. Once concurred on by either chamber, the bill will be finalized and sent to the Governor for his signature. In three previous years, bills to criminalize child neglect had come before the General Assembly and failed. Maryland was previously the only state in the nation that did not criminalize the intentional neglect of minors.
“The passage of this legislation marks important progress for our State. We will finally be able to bring to justice those who intentionally put Maryland’s children at substantial risk of harm,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Thanks to the hard work of the General Assembly, as well as our partnerships with stakeholders, we have taken a stand and said once and for all that egregiously and intentionally neglecting children is unacceptable, and it will not be tolerated in Maryland.”
In 2010, Maryland Child Protective Services identified nearly 4,150 cases of child neglect. However, under previously existing Maryland law, cases of child neglect could not be prosecuted unless they resulted in physical injury or death of the child.
Studies link child neglect to increased likelihood of violent behavior and criminal involvement and find it is more likely than other forms of child maltreatment to result in antisocial behavior. Neglected children display poorer academic performance than abused or non-maltreated children. Economically, child neglect costs Americans approximately $94 billion a year - $258 million a day – in direct and indirect costs, including hospitalization, mental health care, child welfare service, special education and lost productivity.
As passed, this bill will make child neglect a misdemeanor subject to imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine up to $5,000 or both. The law seeks to penalize the small number of adults who deliberately neglect their children. Under the new legislation passed today, those parents or guardians who are unable to sufficiently care for their children due to an involuntary condition, such as poverty or homelessness, would not be prosecuted.
Lt. Governor Brown has led the O’Malley-Brown administration’s efforts to strengthen domestic abuse laws and address domestic violence, including successfully championing the efforts to take guns out of the hands of abusers in 2009.