Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be:
Neglect refers to the failure of a parent to provide for the development of the child – where the parent is in a position to do so – in one or more of the following areas: health, education, emotional development, nutrition, shelter and safe living conditions. Neglect is thus distinguished from circumstances of poverty in that neglect can occur only in cases where reasonable resources are available to the family or caregiver.
(Definition: World Health Organisation)
- Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
- Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
- Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
- Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child’s health or safety is at risk, then child welfare intervention may be required.
Neglect is a very common type of child abuse. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, more children suffer from neglect than from physical and sexual abuse combined. Yet victims are not often identified, primarily because neglect is a type of child abuse that is an act of omission — of not doing something. Some overlap exists between the definitions of emotional abuse and emotional neglect. However, neglect is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs. A single act of neglect might not be considered child abuse, but repeated neglect is definitely child abuse.
Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:
- Is frequently absent from school.
- Begs or steals food or money.
- Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses.
- Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
- Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
- States that there is no one at home to provide care.
Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:
Child Welfare Information Gateway
WHO: World report on violence and health, Chapter 3, Child abuse and neglect by parents and other caregivers:
- Appears to be indifferent to the child.
- Seems apathetic or depressed.
- Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner.
- Is abusing alcohol or other drugs.