Insofar as South Carolina law is concerned, an abused or neglected child is a child whose physical condition or mental health is harmed or at a substantial risk of being harmed. In the context of child abuse and neglect cases, the Court defines “harm” in a number of ways.
- Abandonment. If a parent that is otherwise capable makes no provision for support of their child, or no effort to communicate, speak with or contact the child, and has no intention of returning to the child or supporting the child, then the child is considered to be abandoned.
- Abuse. If a parent willfully does something that results in physical, sexual or mental harm to the child, or an action that is likely to stifle or injure the child’s physical, emotional or mental health in the future, then abuse is considered to be present.
- Neglect. If a parent that is otherwise fiscally capable of providing for his or her child willfully deprives that child of the basic necessities of life–such as food, shelter, education and/or health care–and being deprived of such things puts the child at substantial risk of physical or mental injury, then the issue of neglect is considered to arise.
- Encouraged Delinquency: If a parent actively encourages or otherwise condones or approves of delinquent or unlawful actions by the child, that condonation and approval constitutes injury and harm for the purposes of finding abuse and/or neglect.
A child may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer without the consent of the child’s parent if the officer has probable cause to believe that the child’s health, life, welfare or safety is in imminent danger and there is no time to wait for an Order of the Court. The same may also occur if a parent has been placed under arrest, a child is in danger because of that arrest, and the parent does not agree to provide custody of the child to anyone else. Likewise, if a child becomes lost, and law enforcement officers have been unable to contact the child’s parents, that child may be taken into custody without parental consent.