Bill would create harsher child neglect laws

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)--- People on both sides of the argument agree that no child should be neglected and people who neglect kids deserve to be punished.

What they don’t agree on is what that punishment should look like and what is considered neglect.

This bill says, "Any person who is responsible for a child's welfare who negligently fails, for reasons other than poverty, to provide
the child with necessary care or contributes to the failure is guilty of the crime of neglect.”

It also says, "Necessary care includes adequate food, clothing, medical care, shelter, and supervision; the opportunity for education; or the protection from exposure to the distribution, manufacture, or use of controlled substances.”

It would make child neglect a felony that could lead to jail time. Right now it’s only a misdemeanor charge. Neglect can look like not providing the proper food or clothing for a child or not getting medical care.

The author of the bill said especially in neglect cases related to drug dealing or drug using, parents should face steep penalties for failing their child.

“That’s what this bill does is gives consequences to those individuals who should never be doing this to our kids,” said State Representative Cody Horlacher, (R - Mukwonago).

Those who voted against the bill said it’s too over reaching the way it’s written. Parents who take prescription pain medicine or fail to take their kids to see a doctor could end up being arrested. Another concern is making child neglect a criminal problem instead of a problem that’ is dealt with through family services.

“Just think about it, if you’re locked in a jail cell without classes on how to be a better parent, what are you going to learn from your cellmate on how to be a better parent? It doesn’t make any sense,” said State Rep. Evan Goyke (D - Milwaukee).

Supporters of the bill said the judicial system will only lock up parents in severe child neglect cases. This bill passed the state assembly on Tuesday afternoon. It now gets sent over to the senate. The assembly is set to be back on the floor in February.