A child can be physically or emotionally abandoned by a parent or caregiver. Abandonment trauma can leave an imprint that continues into adulthood, increasing the risk of substance abuse, eating disorders and relationship problems. It can also lead to an inability to trust others or to build healthy relationships. This is particularly true if the root cause of the abandonment was an unstable home life, mental health issues or parental addiction.
A number of countries have adopted Safe Haven laws, which allow a new-born baby to be left in a basket or box at a designated location, such as a hospital (see Baby hatch). The parents will not be charged with a crime if they do so. However, these laws are not without controversy; they do not protect the parents from child neglect and/or child abuse accusations. In many cases, a baby found alive in such a location would be placed into foster care or adoption, rather than returned to its mother.
Abandonment of an infant may also occur in other circumstances, such as if a pregnant woman cannot afford to raise the child or if she feels she is not able to do so due to mental illness. In these instances, the woman will often give the baby up to a social agency or to another person such as a friend.
The most common form of child abandonment occurs in the United States, where babies are typically placed with foster families until permanent adoptive placement can be found. In some cases, this will happen immediately; in other cases the baby will be placed into temporary foster care while the state works to locate a suitable family. In some cases, the infant will be placed with a private or religious adoption organization.
Some people will even choose to abandon their children if they are unable or unwilling to raise them, a process known as emotional abandonment. In this case, the children are often neglected or abused, but it is not illegal for the parents to do so, unless the parents are mentally ill and their condition led them to desert their children.
In some cases, children will be abandoned by their parents because of a divorce, custody dispute or other family legal issue. These are typically not as severe as physical or emotional abandonment, but they can be difficult for everyone involved. Some of these issues will only resolve if the parents can come to an agreement about custody, visitation or other issues. Alternatively, the parents may need to seek professional help to address the underlying problems that lead to their conflict. A therapist can provide guidance and support for parents who are struggling with such issues.