Press-Republican

Columns

April 21, 2014

When children are put at risk

I cringed each time I saw a case where people sold or used drugs with children nearby.

Sadly, it happens regularly. 

In the North Country, it is much more common to buy drugs in someone’s home than on the street. Drugs and money change hands over and over with little kids running around.

And I cringed even more when the case involved domestic violence and the children were home. 

Sometimes, the kids were in the same room while their mother was being attacked; sometimes, they tried to protect her, to stop the assault. 

Other times, they were in another room, not seeing, but hearing the arguing, crying, crashing and banging.

‘FOOLING THEMSELVES’

Some people who do these things don’t think about the kids at all. 

Others convince themselves that the kids are not affected because they are just infants or toddlers. 

Or that if they are in another room and don’t see anything, they are safe from harm. 

These folks are fooling themselves. 

Being an “ear-witness” to such conduct can be as harmful as being an eye-witness.

And those adults are also committing the crime of endangering the welfare of a child, in addition to the pertinent drug or domestic-violence offenses. 

For this prosecution, the actions need not be directed at the child, nor do they have to actually cause injury. 

“Endangering” is committed whenever the conduct is likely to cause harm to a child.

POTENTIAL FOR INJURY

There are two categories of endangering the welfare of a child (New York State Penal Law 260.10) that holds adults responsible for behavior that can be harmful to children. 

The first applies to 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 . . . .”

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