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  • Passive Parenting and New York's Refusal to Recognize Parent-Child Actions for Negligent Supervision

    The constitutional right to a family, and the deference afforded to parental discretion in raising children holds a special place in both national and New York State jurisprudence. Legislatures and courts have been hesitant to interfere in the family domain. Consequently, there are few legal duties a parent owes to their child that will “give rise to legal consequences for their breach.” In New York, state interference with parental discretion has been limited to only those situations where parents fail to meet basic obligations. Parents are obligated to “support and maintain their children—i.e., to furnish adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical attention and education.” Parents are also obligated to provide “proper supervision or guardianship,” of their children. A failure of the parental obligation to supervise properly may include “unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or a substantial risk thereof, including the infliction of excessive corporal punishment,” or by the misuse of drugs and or alcohol. A parent’s failure to observe these minimum standards of care may face “remedial sanctions, such as the forfeiture of custody, and criminal sanctions.” These basic parental obligations are not recent statutory inventions. They are deeply rooted in our law and culture; “[a]t common law the right of the father to the control and custody of his infant child grew out of the corresponding duty of his part to maintain, protect an educate it.”