Many people think that the only reason for courts to get involved with parents' right to raise their children is when there is obvious physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. However, the standard for dependence and neglect includes much more than that. Once a child is considered dependent and neglected, a court can determine custody arrangements that would be in the best interest of the child.
In Tennessee, a dependent and neglected child includes the following:
1. A child without a parent or guardian;
2. A child whose parent, guardian, or person the child lives with is unfit to care for the child due to cruelty, mental incapacity, immorality or depravity;
3. A child who is under improper care or supervision by any person, agency, or organization;
4. A child who is unlawfully kept out of school;
5. A child whose parent or guardian neglects or refuses to provide necessary medical care for the child;
6. A child, who because of a lack of supervision, is found anywhere that is unlawful;
7. Any child who is under improper care which would lead to injury or would endanger the morals or health of the child or others;
8. A child who is suffering from abuse or neglect;
9. A child who has been allowed to engage in prostitution or obscene photographing and whose parent fails to protect the child from further activities;
10. A child willfully left in the sole financial and physical care of a relative for more than 18 months, and the removal of the child from the care of the relative would result in substantial harm to the child.
Tennessee Code Annotated §37-1-102(b)(12)
While abuse and neglect is included in the factors for finding dependency and neglect, it is certainly not the only factor. Parents should be aware of the standard for finding a child dependent and neglected, and ensure that they are providing adequate care for their children.