There are two categories of
Endangering the Welfare of a Child (NY Penal Law 260.10), holding
adults responsible for behavior which is harmful to children.
Presently there is only one degree of
"Endangering," which is a misdemeanor. However, there
are proposals in the legislature to create a felony-level, as well.
any person who "knowingly acts in a manner likely to be
injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less
than 17 or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation
involving substantial risk of danger to his life or health" is
guilty of the crime of endangering the welfare of a child. NY
Penal Law 260.10(1).
There are many examples
of this, which range from having sexual contact with a child, to
providing alcohol or drugs, to driving while intoxicated with young
passengers, to committing violence in the presence of a child.
Note that there does not have to be proof that the child was in fact
harmed; the law is directed at the "potential" for
injury. Also note that this crime protects the child's
"moral welfare," as well as physical and mental health.
The second area of
"endangering" applies only to a parent or guardian: "being
a parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or
custody of a child less than 18 years old, he fails or refuses to
exercise reasonable diligence in the control of such child to prevent
him from becoming an 'abused child,' a 'neglected child,' a
'juvenile delinquent' or a 'person in need of supervision,' as those
terms are defined in the Family Court Act." NY
Penal Law 260.20(2).
Since a parent or other
person with legal custody of a child has legal obligations to properly
care for the child, failure to do so can result in prosecution for
"endangering," for particular acts, omissions, or a course
of conduct over time.
Parents have been
prosecuted for failure to provide adequate medical care, as well as
for failure to provide sufficient food and shelter, for providing
alcoholic beverages, and for leaving children alone at home or
in motor vehicle. A parent who fails to "exercise
reasonable diligence" in getting the child to school could also
be charged with "endangering," since truancy from school is
a basis for find a child to be a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS).
here for a Summary of Cases on
Endangering the Welfare of a Child.