Abuse and Neglect
An abused or neglected child is a child whose caregiver creates, inflicts, allows, or threatens physical or mental injury to the child other than by accident. In addition, abuse or neglect can occur when the caregiver does not provide the care that is necessary for the child's health or allows a sexual act to be committed against the child. A child can be abused or neglected even if it is not clear who injured the child. An abused or neglected child may also be a child whose caregiver abandons the child or whose caregiver is mentally or physically unable to care for the child.
The cases that arise most often because of the behavior mentioned above are civil cases where parents or other custodians or caregivers of a child are accused of doing something or failing to do something that is included in the definition above. Most often the Bedford County Department of Social Services resolves these matters without bringing them to Court. The most serious cases and those where a parent, parents or caregiver refuse to cooperate with Social Services are the ones normally brought to the attention of the Court.
If you have concerns about a child possibly being abused or neglected, call the Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline at 540-586-7720, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Court can issue a Child Protective Order in these cases and allow the child to remain in the custody of the parent or legal custodian, or the Court can issue an Emergency Removal Order to remove the child from the custody of the parent or caregiver and place the child with a relative, another interested person, or in a foster home. The Court can also enter a Child Protective Order directing the parent to participate in certain programs and activities.
These can be very complicated cases. Because of that fact, lawyers are appointed by the Court to represent the children involved. This kind of lawyer is called a Guardian ad Litem, and he or she is required to represent the best interests of the child. Each parent or custodian of the child is also appointed a lawyer unless they are able to pay for their own.
If a Preliminary Protective Order or an Emergency Removal has been filed against you, you will have a court hearing within five days. The next hearing, one that determines preponderance of guilt, is held within thirty days. The final merits hearing is held within seventy five days. That is the first hearing at which a final disposition in the Case is made.
Being involved in a child abuse and neglect case can be very confusing and stressful for a family. Not knowing what to expect can make it even more difficult. At the bottom of this section is a link to a Handbook for Parents and Guardians in Child Abuse or Neglect Cases that will help one understand what will generally happen when a child is removed from the home. We recommend that this handbook be printed out and kept for reference throughout the process of the case in court. In addition to being an informational resource, it provides space to write in the names of the people who will be involved in the case, the dates of court hearings, and some questions to ask.
Criminal cases can also result from an act of abuse or neglect of a child where the parent or caregiver is charged and, if convicted, could be punished by a Judge of the Juvenile Court or, where the case is a Felony, by the judge of the Circuit Court.
The Bedford Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA) is appointed by the Juvenile Court in certain of these cases to investigate and advocate on behalf of a child or children in a family. The CASA Program has been in existence in Bedford since 1998 and provides very valuable service to the Court and the children involved with the Court. To learn more about volunteer opportunities or about the Program itself you may call 434-528-2552.
Legal Definition of Child Abuse/Neglect
Pursuant to the Code of Virginia §16.1-228, abused or neglected child means any child:
- 1. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury by other than accidental means, or creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily or mental functions, including, but not limited to, a child who is with his parent or other person responsible for his care either (i) during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or (ii) during the unlawful sale of such substance by that child's parents or other person responsible for his care, where such manufacture, or attempted manufacture or unlawful sale would constitute a felony violation of § 18.2-248;
- 2. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health; however, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be an abused or neglected child;
- 3. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care abandons such child;
- 4. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care commits or allows to be committed any sexual act upon a child in violation of the Law; or
- 5. Who is without parental care or guardianship caused by the unreasonable absence or the mental or physical incapacity of the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis.
If a civil proceeding under this chapter is based solely on the parent having left the child at a hospital or rescue squad, it shall be an affirmative defense that such parent safely delivered the child to a hospital that provides 24-hour emergency services or to an attended rescue squad that employs emergency medical technicians, within 14 days of the child's birth. For purposes of terminating parental rights pursuant to § 16.1-283 and placement for adoption, the court may find such a child is a neglected child upon the grounds of abandonment.
Handbook for Parents and Guardians in Child Abuse or Neglect Cases