Law Championed by Lt. Governor Effective as of October 1
BALTIMORE, Md. (October 3, 2011) – Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown was joined by representatives from child advocacy organizations, members of law enforcement, and state and local officials at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center to announce that, as of October 1st, child neglect is officially a crime in Maryland.
Under the new law, which was championed by Lt. Governor Brown during this year’s session of the General Assembly, child neglect is a misdemeanor crime subject to imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine up to $5,000 or both. The law seeks to penalize only adults who deliberately neglect their children. 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. In three previous years, bills to criminalize child neglect had come before the General Assembly and failed.
“With this new law, we are finally able to bring to justice those who intentionally put children at substantial risk of harm, ending Maryland’s dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation that does not criminalize child neglect,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Our primary goal remains to address neglect through education and better parenting, and we will not prosecute parents who cannot provide proper care through no fault of their own, be it poverty, homelessness, or being under duress of domestic violence. But now, thanks to the hard work of the General Assembly and all of our partners, we have taken a stand and said once and for all that egregiously and intentionally neglecting children will not be tolerated in Maryland.”
“One of the most important functions of our legislative body is to protect children who are among the most vulnerable of Maryland citizens,” said Senator Nancy J. King, Senate sponsor of the bill. “Passage of this legislation is another step forward in defending the rights of those who cannot defend themselves and I commend the Lt. Governor for his leadership in enacting this new law.”
“After working on this important piece of legislation for 4 years, I am very appreciative to the Governor, Lt. Governor and members of the General Assembly for their commitment to Maryland's children with the passage of the child neglect legislation,” said Delegate Galen Clagett, House sponsor of the neglect bill. “This new law will ensure our children are not intentionally neglected.”
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.
“On behalf of the city and citizens of Baltimore, I thank Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown for giving prosecutors like me another important tool to protect our most precious resource — our children — from neglect,” said Julie Drake, chief of the Family Violence Unit for the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, who joined Lt. Governor Brown for today’s event.
“Through effective legislation championed by Lt. Governor Brown, the child neglect law will prove to be a powerful tool to be able to respond to and prevent future tragedies,” states Adam Rosenberg, Executive Director of Baltimore Child Abuse Center. “Child advocacy centers across the country like BCAC are proud to provide support, medical assistance, victim advocacy, and a safe place for children to be heard and helped in any case involving abuse or neglect. Being able to finally provide the same coordinated criminal justice response for cases of neglect as our teams have done for abuse will enable us to respond to prevent future tragedies.”
The Lt. Governor also toured the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and presented the Center with a Governor’s Proclamation in recognition of their outstanding efforts and commitment to serving and protecting child victims of neglect and physical and sexual abuse. Baltimore Child Abuse Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides all reported victims of child abuse in Baltimore City and their non-offending caretakers with comprehensive interviews, medical treatment, and crisis counseling services. Baltimore Child Abuse Center is the oldest children’s advocacy center in Maryland and served close to 1,000 children in 2010. For more information, visit: www.BaltimoreChildAbuseCenter.org.
Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s efforts to protect families by working to address domestic violence, including successfully championing the efforts to take guns out of the hands of abusers.