As stated in Florida Statute 39, “neglect” occurs when a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment or a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. The foregoing circumstances shall not be considered neglect if caused primarily by financial inability unless actual services for relief have been offered to and rejected by such person. A parent or legal custodian legitimately practicing religious beliefs in accordance with a recognized church or religious organization who thereby does not provide specific medical treatment for a child shall not, for that reason alone, be considered a negligent parent or legal custodian; however, such an exception does not preclude a court from ordering the following services to be provided, when the health of the child so requires:
- Medical services from a licensed physician, dentist, optometrist, podiatric physician, or other qualified health care provider; or
- Treatment by a duly accredited practitioner who relies solely on spiritual means for healing in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized church or religious organization.
Neglect of a child includes acts or omissions.
As stated in Florida Statute 827 (criminal law), “Neglect of a child” means:
- A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
- A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
Neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical injury or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.
While frequent school absence or tardiness is a possible behavioral indicator of neglect, please note that there is no educational neglect in Florida law. Florida is a compulsory attendance state for children between the ages of six and sixteen years. The Florida abuse hotline will not accept reports based on lack of school attendance unless there is also suspected abuse or neglect as defined in Florida Statute 39. The school district has the responsibility to address attendance problems.