Child abuse/neglect involve allegations of serious injury or risk of injury to children caused by the actions or inactions of one or more parents. Most often, child abuse/neglect cases are initiated by the New Hampshire Division of Children Youth or Families Bureau of Child Protection , but private actions may be initiated for abuse/neglect by anyone.
Child abuse/neglect is not merely bad parenting or the normal run of the mill accidents occurring in a child’s life. Abuse is defined by statute as involving sexual abuse, or physical or psychological injury to children by other than accidental means. Neglect has been defined as the failure to provide proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health, when it is established that the child’s health has suffered or is very likely to suffer serious impairment.
“Abuse/Neglect cases involve serious consequences that can even lead to the termination of parental rights. “
A child abuse/neglect case involves substantial involvement of the State in the rights and responsibilities of parents and children. As such, many rights and protections have been put in place, such as the right to court appointed attorneys for indigent parents who are accused, as well as regular and frequent hearings to monitor the progress of an abused/neglected child and the parent(s).
Once abuse/neglect proceedings begin in court, there is a preliminary hearing to determine whether the court believes that there may be some abuse or neglect happening. If the court finds that there is “probable cause” to believe a child is being abused or neglected, the court will appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child. The court will also determine whether the child needs to be placed out of the home until the full hearing or not, and set a date for that hearing. At the evidentiary hearing, both sides have the opportunity to present evidence to advance their position. Following this hearing, the court must make a determination as to whether the child was or was not abused or neglected. Should the court determine that there was abuse and/or neglect, the court will mandate the parent to correct whatever conditions led to the finding of abuse and/or neglect within 12-months.
Failure to correct the conditions of abuse within that time period after reasonable efforts by the State will be grounds for termination of parental rights.