Parental neglect is a legal term that has various definitions depending on the state or country. In common law, parental neglect is often described as continuous neglectful behavior that may be detrimental to the child’s welfare.
The usual cases of parental neglect often involve lack of parental supervision. This kind of parental neglect usually leads to emotional distress or provides physical risk to the child. Examples of this kind of neglect involve leaving a child alone at home for an extended period of time. State or local laws may define the age of a child wherein it is unsafe for the child to be left alone.
There exist varying degrees of parental neglect as well as varying degrees of punishment if one is found guilty of parental neglect. An extreme case of parental neglect would be placing a child in a hazardous situation that may pose a significant emotional and physical risk to the child. Such cases can already be considered a criminal act since the parents are endangering their children. An example of this would be placing a child in the care of a sex offender.
An individual accused of parental neglect need not be a parent of the child. Anyone who poses as a parental figure, whether or not related to the child, can be accused and charged with parental neglect. An individual accused, charged, and convicted of parental neglect lose whatever rights he or she had over the child. The child is then taken out of the care of that individual.