Why Aren’t More Parents Prosecuted as Criminals?

Below you’ll see a story from Omaha.com that details the criminal charges of one couple whose small children all tested positive for meth.

But the fact remains- most parents involved in our abuse and neglect court system and adjudicated as abusive or neglectful are not also charged in the criminal system. Why is this? There are plenty of reasons but a main two come to mind. The first is that the re-victimization of the child is a high likelihood. Perhaps Johnny*, a five year old boy, accused his stepfather of touching him inappropriately. In order to prosecute, Johnny may have to take the stand so that the accused can face his accuser. Johnny, traumatized, may 1) refuse to take the stand out of fear or 2) become inconsolable on the stand or while in interviews preparing for the hearing or even 3) retract his statements when he gets on the stand out of fear of his abuser, who is probably sitting about six feet away. Is this situation therapeutic for Johnny? The second reason is that criminal and abuse and neglect courts have different evidentiary standards. In abuse and neglect court the judge makes decisions based on preponderance of the evidence (it is more likely true than not true). In criminal court the basis for findings is beyond a reasonable doubt (it had to have happened).

So what percentage of our cases have a criminal component as well? The answer is 31%, less than half of the cases served by Boone County CASA. And the criminal charges span a wide array of crimes. The only similarity is that all of the events directly and greatly endangered a child ie the child was either the victim of or witnessed to the crime.

 

Meth Neglect

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