Child neglect is passive child abuse and should be punished. Parents may argue that they have a right to parent their child however they want, but there are certain amenities a child needs that the child is yet mature enough to give themselves, and that's what the parents are supposed to be there for: providing their child with food, water, shelter, education, medical care, etc. How would you like it if someone denied those things to you?
Parents should be penalized for neglecting their children because they have the chance to become a danger to society with lack of authority figures in their life. How many cases have you seen where a kid goes on a shooting spree, a car jacking, become a thug, robs stores, all because they had a lack of parental figures in their life. Not only are those some of the reasons, but the child can also suffer emotionally and become suicidal or form a mental disability such as depression or anxiety for the fear that their own parents do not care about them. Parents that neglect their children tend to create a world where a child feels that no one cares for them or they do not belong and try to do anything they can to get attention, which eventually involves violence or hurting themselves.
I absolutely believe that the government should go after parents for child neglect. They already do to a certain amount, but too many of the agencies are overworked and cannot effectively deal with the problem. We should increase funding so that the child protection agencies can actually do their jobs and ensure that children get the attention and nurturing they need to become worthwhile adults.