Three young children—the oldest of whom is thought to be about three years old, have been abandoned in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Early yesterday morning, police were tipped off by a man who reported hearing voices in the shed behind his house in the 7900 block of Southeast Rhine Street. Though the shed was empty when police arrived, officers later located the children.
The children were found among a group of homeless people, authorities in the city have reported. Homeless individuals said that a woman, presumably the children’s mother, abandoned them the night before.
The identities of the children, described as “olive-skinned,” are still unknown. Two of the children are girls, one aged 8-15 months and one about two years old. The oldest child is a boy. All three have black hair and dark eyes.
Authorities are calling for anyone with knowledge of the children’s identities or situation to contact Oregon’s Department of Human Services Child Abuse Hotline at 503-731-3100.
According to the American Human Association, child neglect is the most common form of child abuse in the United States. Almost 63 per cent of the 899,000 victims of child abuse in the US suffered from neglect alone. The Child Welfare League of America says on its website that baby abandonment (abandoning an infant under the age of one year old) has apparently increased since 1991.
Child abandonment falls into the category of “physical neglect”—a parent or guardian’s failure to provide for children’s safety and physical needs.
Not only does abandonment threaten children’s immediate safety and security, but it can cause emotional problems for children in the future, including questioning one’s self-worth, low self-esteem, anxiety and attachment problems.
Under Oregon legal codes, the abandonment of a child is a Class C felony. The maximum potential penalties for a Class C felony are five years in prison and $125,000 in fines.
In Canada, as well, failure to provide the necessities of life and abandoning a baby or child are punishable offenses. According to the Department of Justice’s website, “it happens when a person deliberately abandons or exposes a child under the age of 10 in a way that could endanger the child's life or could permanently injure the child's health.”
A 2010 Canadian government study showed that 34% of all investigated youth protection cases with merit involved neglect.
On the global level, child abandonment is a factor behind the world’s “orphan crisis.” The world was home to about 132 million orphans in 2005—many of whom still had one parent living. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), only about 13 million of these children have lost both of their parents. Providing support to families threatened by poverty and other vulnerabilities can help prevent child abandonment around the world.