From The Desk Of Darlene J. Harris – "The Social Issue of Child Abandonment" by Eric Marts Deputy Director of COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES Department of Children and Family Services

Greetings everyone,

I hope all of you are well.

First, I want to thank Gabriel Lucatero for allow And He Restoreth My Soul Project to post “Letting Go”.  I hope you enjoyed his writing.

I take great pleasure in introducing our next writer. I met and collaborated with Eric while serving as a member of “Cura” a ministry dedicated to preserving the family. Working with him was a learning and inspiring opportunity.

Eric writes to us today on “Child Abandonment.” As always, it is my hope that this information will educate and enlighten you.

I often think, if I have another book in me it would be on the abandonment and how it impacts our teen and adult lives.

Please use the comment link at the bottom of the article if you have any questions or comments about this or any other article published by, And He Restoreth My Soul Project.

As always, it is my pleasure to be in your presence.

Darlene J. Harris




Biography of

Eric Marts

Deputy Director of


Department of Children and Family Services

Contract Services Bureau

Eric Marts has been committed to working in human services since 1975. After completing his undergraduate studies, Eric answered a call from the Watts community. A call which emphasized strongly, the need for those who successfully matriculated through the educational systems and the workforce to come back home and help with the excessive myriad of problems within its community. Eric Marts became the Division Chief of the Compton Project which dealt specifically with the Compton/Watts communities, and he has had the great pleasure of coming home to implement the POE initiative in his old community that is changing the lives of hundreds of families and children every day.

In 2008, Eric Marts was appointed as Deputy Director for Services Bureau 2 of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services where he oversaw the Child Protection Hotline and the Emergency Response Command Post. Additionally, Eric Marts oversees four regional operations that include the Compton Project, Vermont Corridor, Wateridge, and the West Los Angeles offices.

In 2013, as part of the Departmental re-organization, Eric Marts was reassigned to a newly developed bureau, the Contract Services Bureau. In this capacity, Mr. Marts has the direct oversight of the Community Based Support Division, Out of Home Care Management Division, Youth Development Services Division, Procurement Division and the Contract Administration Division. The Contract Services Bureau oversees almost 440 contracts in excess of $521,000.000.00.

The Social Issue of Child Abandonment


Eric J. Marts, MPA  

On a global level, the subject of child abandonment has international implications. According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), in their State of California address in 1996, rising military expenditures, falling commodity prices, the debt crisis, and structural adjustment programs are factors in reducing real incomes for over 800 million people in 40 developing countries. It went on to say cuts in social programs such as health care, education, family planning and sanitation are all causes, at the international level, of children being abandoned by their parents or guardian. In addition, social turbulence, war, displacement and poverty are major contributors to abandonment (Aptekar 1994). These factors lead to a sense of hopelessness, a lowered sense of self, and anger that lead to a threat to society.

On the national level, child abandonment is more closely associated with child abuse and neglect. In fact, the phrase abandoned babies has been defined in a number of ways and there seems to be some confusion on the definition of the term. The specific statutory meaning in the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act (P.L. 100-500, 1998), refers to babies who are born in hospitals but do not go home with their parents due to parental drug abuse, HIV/AIDS infections or other child protection issues. A different broader meaning in common speech refers to babies who are not born in hospitals and are left in unsafe places by their parents.

Due to significant media attention when babies are left in unsafe places, there have been major efforts at finding solutions. However, one drawback has been finding a reliable method of tracking the cases of abandonment when babies are left in unsafe places. So, in 1999, the U. S. Department of Health commissioned a study that would search newspaper articles across the nation. That search found 65 published reports of baby abandonment. Eight of those babies were found dead. Further, in 1998, a similar search found that 108 babies were abandoned and 33 have died. Obviously, this method of identifying abandoned children is not the best but it does give society enough information to the note the problem and the seriousness of the problem.

Just as international child abandonment issues have their causes and reasons; The Abandoned Infants Resource Center at the University of California, Berkeley cited some that are related to child abandonment here in the U.S. The research indicates that people who publicly abandon their children or who commit acts of neonaticide are usually very young, unmarried, physically healthy women who are pregnant for the first time and not addicted to substances. The problem is not limited to race, ethnicity or income. The majority of these women live with their parents or guardians or other relatives. There is a sense of denial and self-imposed silence and isolation during pregnancy (Oberman 1996). Women who kill or discard their babies usually have no prenatal care and have made no plans for the birth or care of their children (Pitts & Bale 1995). Reasons for abandoning or killing the babies, include extramarital paternity, rape, illegitimacy and perceiving the child as an obstacle to personal achievement (Summary 2000)

As the result of the significant media attention to baby abandonment, most states have set up similar policies to address the problem. Further, there have been laws enacted that allow a parent to anonymously relinquish an unharmed baby at a designated location without fear of violating the law. This type of law is often referred to as the Safe Haven Law. In addition, this type of law presumes that a decision to abandon is made spontaneously and in situations of crisis when the unwanted baby is born. These laws, however, are not intended to provide to alternatives those who have been parenting for a while and the laws usually state a time limit. The most common time span is 72 hours. Finally, some states require the relinquishment of a baby to be voluntary while other states stipulate that the parent must not express intent to return to the baby.

While one source believes the mothers who abandon their babies are not typically using substances, there are many cited where the mother was using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. This contradiction may be related to confusion in defining abandoned babies and related to hospital births. Further, it is believed that many babies inherit defects as well as sexually transmitted diseases, among other physical and mental disabilities, as the result of the activities of the parents.

Abandonment is a societal problem where solutions must be found. Safe Havens have been a good start and many experts believe that people are using the Safe Havens laws which is resulting in lower incidences of abandonment. Another major action that addresses this problem, is by giving these babies a loving and nurturing home through Adoptions. The lives of these children are valuable. Losing one child to abandonment is too many.

As a society, however, making education of young people a priority is important. The more we teach our children and youth about this problem and its relationship to their lives, the better we will be as a society. Finding ways to engage the youth and establishing or reinforcing their moral compass is a beginning. Whatever we can do to provide social programs, increase access to good health care and reduce/eliminate poverty will go a long way as the solutions.

Posted in: Resources

Tagged as: , ,