Child abandonment is considered in many states, including Louisiana, to be a form of child abuse or neglect. Therefore, it is punishable under state criminal law.
Louisiana defines child neglect as the failure or refusal of a parent or guardian to provide necessary clothing, food, shelter, care, counseling or treatment for any illness, injury or condition that result in a child's health and safety being threatened or impaired.
Louisiana defines criminal abandonment as leaving a child under 10 years old without adult supervision. Evidence must show the parent did not intend to provide for supervision of the child or intend to return to the child. A parent who commits criminal abandonment can be fined up to $1,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to one year.
Desertion, according to Louisiana law, is exposing a child under 10 to hazardous conditions from which the child could not reasonably protect himself, either intentionally or through negligence. A first offense of desertion is punishable by a fine of $500 and/or six months imprisonment. A second offense is punishable by a minimum of 30 days imprisonment to a maximum of six months and a fine of $500. This 30-day minimum sentence cannot be suspended or served on probation.
Criminal Neglect of Family
If a parent leaves a minor child without means of support for more than 30 days, this is considered criminal neglect of family. This offense is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of $500. If this fine is not paid, the offending party can be placed on criminal probation.
Infant Safe Haven Laws
In an effort to reduce the number of abandoned children, many states, including Louisiana, have introduced "safe haven laws." These laws allow parents to safely abandon infants without criminal liability.
Louisiana's Safe Haven Law
In Louisiana, a parent may relinquish an infant (not more than 30 days old) by taking the baby to a designated emergency care facility (such as police department, fire station or hospital). The parent must place the child into the hands of an employee of the facility and state he wishes to relinquish the child. Parents who are unable to get to one of these facilities may call 911. A law enforcement officer or emergency worker will immediately meet the parent and take the child to a hospital. Parents who relinquish their children voluntarily in this manner are not subject to charges of child abuse, neglect or abandonment.