When a child’s parent or guardian abandons her, the child loses the security she has always known. The loss of the relationship can affect a child’s physical and emotional well-being for years to come, increasing the likelihood that she will develop mental health issues or use unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or eating disorders in adulthood.
The causes of parental abandonment are varied and complex. Parents may feel that they are ill-equipped to provide the care their children need, and this can lead them to choose to neglect or abandon them. Other common reasons include a parent’s inability to financially support the child, complicated divorce proceedings and custody disputes, or even a fear of retaliation from the other parent. Some parents may also have a history of abuse or neglect as children, which can cause them to feel unprepared to be a loving parent, and they might decide to just abandon their children rather than face the challenges ahead.
Abandoned children often live a life filled with anxiety and insecurity. They are mystified by the absence of a reason why their parent left them, and they often blame themselves for the situation. In addition, abandoned children often feel as if they are not worthy of being loved and accepted, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt.
Those who have no family or friends are particularly vulnerable to abandonment, especially in impoverished nations where social services agencies are often overwhelmed and have limited resources to screen foster/adoptive families thoroughly enough to ensure the safety of the children they take in. Many women who give birth to a child through an adoption agency have no idea how they will ever be able to raise it, and they may choose to abandon the baby as a way of cutting their losses.
A mother who decides to abandon her children for economic or medical reasons isn’t always prosecuted by law enforcement. In some countries, however, the law does protect abandoned children by allowing an organization to assume custody of them until permanent adoptive parents can be found. This practice is most prevalent in developing countries, where local families have insufficient resources to care for abandoned babies.
The specific legal definition of abandonment varies by state, but most of the time, when an abandoned child shows up in an ER, she will be placed into foster care until a permanent home can be found for her. Some states also have “safe haven laws,” where a person can leave a baby in an approved location without the need to notify authorities or provide a reason for their action. In those cases, the babies usually enter an adoption agency’s program and will be matched with potential adoptive families through a process of interviews and assessments. Adoption agencies often keep the names and contact information of the parents confidential.