Indiana law protects children from the neglect of their parents or other guardians. At the same time, the law allows parents to practice sincerely held religious beliefs about the right way to raise children, discipline them or treat them medically, as long as the practices do not threaten the welfare of a child.
Child in Need of Services
Indiana law defines when a child is in need of state services. This definition includes children who have been neglected. Neglect is defined as the failure to provide necessary food, clothes, housing, medial care, schooling or supervision to the extent that the child is seriously impaired or endangered. A more serious form of neglect is called child endangerment. This occurs when the child is seriously injured (physically or emotionally) or in danger of serious injury because of the parents' or guardian's actions. It can also occur when the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation that he or she is not getting. If drugs are illegally manufactured in the child's home, the child is presumed to be endangered.
Indiana law makes exceptions to the definition of neglect for parents who withhold medical treatment from their children when they are sincerely practicing a legitimate religious belief. This creates a rebuttable presumption that the child is not a child in need of services under Indiana law. The presumption will not prevent a juvenile court from ordering medical care for the child if the child's welfare requires it. A presumption is not created if the parents' actions create a serious risk to the health or life of the child.
Reporting and Remedies
Everyone in Indiana who is aware of child neglect or abuse is required to report that neglect to the Child Protection Service in the county where the child lives. Child Protection Services is required to investigate all claims of neglect and take action to protect the child. This can include providing services to the child and/or family or asking a court to intervene and take the child into protective custody.