Know the Law: Endangering
 the Welfare of a Child

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.

First, 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).

Click here for a Summary of Cases on
Endangering the Welfare of a Child.