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Child abandonment is the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring in an extralegal way with the intent of never again resuming or reasserting them. Causes include many social and cultural factors as well as mental illness. An abandoned child is called a foundling (as opposed to a runaway or an orphan). Baby dumping refers to parents abandoning or discarding a child younger than 12 months in a public or private place with the intent of disposing of them. It is also known as rehoming in cases of failed adoptions.

Poverty is often a root cause of child abandonment. People in cultures with poor social welfare systems who are not financially capable of taking care of a child are more likely to abandon them. Political conditions, such as difficulty in adoption proceedings, may also contribute to child abandonment, as can the lack of institutions, such as orphanages, to take in children whom their parents cannot support.

Another common reason for baby dumping is teenage pregnancies. Pregnant teenagers experience problems during and after childbirth due to social and psychological distress. Regardless of age, parents may abandon a child because they are unprepared to raise them.

Other reasons include unpreferred gender, appearance, or other characteristics of the child as well as mental or physical handicaps of the child.

Education, family planning, government support, and post-natal services and support for motherhood are available tools for reducing this problem.

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