In some cases, no overt harm has been committed to the child either physically, emotionally or sexually. It can be the case that the omission of care required by the child has led to degradation of the child’s wellbeing. Cases of child neglect are no less serious that those of other types of abuse.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical, emotional and/or psychological needs, with the result that there is a serious impairment of the child’s health or development.
It is possible for neglect to occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.
What Constitutes Child Neglect?
Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent failing to:
- Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter;
- Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
- Ensure adequate supervision;
- Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Although neglect can be inflicted willfully as an abusive act by a parent, more often it is not a deliberate act of cruelty. Neglect is usually defined as an omission of care by the child’s parent, often due to one or more unmet needs of their own. These could include domestic violence, mental health issues, learning disabilities, substance misuse, or social isolation/exclusion, as well as others.
Neglect is not an acute occurrence. Evidence of neglect accumulates over a period of time.To get a full and complete picture of any neglectful situation, it may be necessary for professionals to discuss their concerns with any other agencies which may be involved with the family, tan , between them establish whether seemingly minor incidents are in fact part of a wider pattern of neglectful parenting.
Indicators that would point to an ongoing situation of neglect would include:
- Failure by parents or carers to meet essential physical needs;
- Failure by parents or carers to meet essential emotional needs;
- The child observed to be listless, apathetic and unresponsive with no apparent medical cause;
- Failure of child to grow within normal expected pattern, with accompanying weight loss;
- Child thrives away from home environment;
- Child frequently absent from school;
- Child left with inappropriate carers;
- Child left with adults who are intoxicated or violent;
- Child abandoned or left alone for excessive periods;
- Child has very poor dental health.