Most parents love their children deeply and strive to provide adequate care and support to them. Unfortunately, parents sometimes either willfully or unintentionally fail to properly care for their children. It is an unlawful act.

Under the state's Parental Responsibility Law, parents are required to provide proper care for children under age 18 by giving them food, clothing, shelter, supervision and medical care. If they do not, they can be found by the court to be guilty of neglect or abuse.

Neglected minors also include newborn infants whose blood or urine contains any amount of a controlled substance and any child who is physically or sexually abused, tortured or receives excessive corporal punishment. While parents are free to discipline their children, the courts draw the line at actual abuse.

When parents do not or cannot take care of their children, even if it's for a brief period, a juvenile court judge may place them in a foster home or other appropriate residence. Once the judge feels that the parents have corrected the problem, they can be reunited with the children. On occasion, the court requires the parent(s) to undergo counseling.

Parents who fail to comply with the court's ruling may permanently lose custody of their children. Before that happens, however, the children must be represented in court by a lawyer. If there is no money to pay for a lawyer, the court will appoint one for the children and also a public defender to represent the parent(s).

While parents have typically been given considerable control over the lives of their children, this practice is changing in some areas. Minors, for example, have the right to birth control information and treatment for venereal disease without parental consent.

By law, parents may have to pay for damages their children cause as a result of a willful, malicious act. Parents may also be found negligent if they allow their children to do something illegal such as allowing the children to drive a car without a driver's license.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit

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