Shocking, isn’t it, that neglect is the #1 form of child abuse. One might expect physical abuse to outrank neglect. Not so, according to Merck Manual Home Edition – “Neglect is 3 times more common than physical abuse.”
Statistics show that of 896,000 neglected and/or abused children, in the United States alone, about 1400 of them die.
Why does this occur in the “home of the brave”?
Due to my background as an abused/neglected child and extensive recovery work as an adult, it happens for two basic reasons: 1) Neglected/abused children fear for their life and are not brave enough to tell another adult they are being exploited. 2) Adults witnessing child neglect do not have the courage to get involved.
Contributing Parental Factors to Child Neglect
2. Substance Abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.)
3. History of neglect as a child
4. Single parent
5. Mentally challenged
These statistics are not all-inclusive and are not one-size-fits-all. Poor people, single parents, adults of neglectful parents are not all neglectful parents.
What Parental Actions are Considered Neglect?
Neglect is a parental omission, which could lead to permanent termination of their rights to rear the child. Parents have a responsibility to provide the child’s basic needs: food, clothing, shelter and nurturing. Neglectful parents not only fail to provide the child’s basic needs, they also ignore the child’s health and dental needs and/or proper supervision.
My mother left me untended for days on end. Normal noises like the house settling and creaking or thunder clapping frightened me. A ringing telephone convinced me a burglar was checking to see if I was home alone. I still act like a jumping bean when hearing unexpected noises.
According to Coalition for Children: Most frequent cause of death occurs when child is left alone and unsupervised.
Outward Signs of a Neglected Child
Here are outward signs of the neglected child.
1. Dirty hands and fingernails.
2. Clothing dirty and/or mis-sized (too large or small).
3. Hair matted and dull.
4. Offensive body odor.
5. Shoes worn or ill-fitting. Holes in socks.
6. Wears only a thin sweater, no coat, gloves or hat during cold weather.
Signs Health and Dental Needs are Neglected
Here are signs that health and dental needs are neglected:
1. Frequent scratching due to itchy, broken-out skin.
2. Infected sores from cuts or abrasions.
3. Easily tires, low energy level.
4. Gets sick often and is left untreated.
5. Foul breath, chipped or broken teeth.
Child’s Actions Indicating Neglect
Often observing the child’s actions offers suspicion of neglect.
1. Frequently absent from or tardy to school or
2. Comes to school early to get away from home
3. Undernourished due to not having breakfast and/or lunch. (May steal money for lunch.)
4. Exists in a world of his/her own making (daydreams, poor attention span).
5. Troublemaker, bully.
6. Consistently lies.
Child Neglect is Serious
Health care practitioners may discover signs of neglect when treating a child for illness or injury. They are required, by law, to report all cases of suspected neglect (or abuse) to Child Protective Services.
Teachers and licensed childcare providers are also trained to be on the alert for obvious signs of child neglect and report them.
Concerned citizens who have reasons to suspect child neglect may report anonymously to their local Child Protective Services. We can make a difference in a child’s life. We can save a child’s life.
Child neglect is serious. Child neglect is the number one form of child abuse. Children die from neglect due to malnourishment or exposure.
The only way to prevent child neglect is for parents to recognize their abusive behavior patterns and find the courage to break the cycle.
I have been there and not one single adult stepped-up. For the sake of all our children, I continuously question myself, “Are you brave?”
Are you ready to read additional articles written by this author?