More than 75% of children who are victims of maltreatment have been neglected. But what exactly does that mean? Neglect may seem less tangible than abuse - less physically apparent than a broken arm or string of bruises and more challenging to describe than an assault (in terms of example/encounter not emotional toll). However, neglect is more prevalent than physical or sexual abuse and must be understood to be stopped or prevented.
Broadly defined, neglect is the failure of a parent/guardian to provide for the basic needs of a child. This includes food, shelter, medical care, clothing and supervision. Many states also cite the failure to provide education for a child as a form of neglect. Such a lack can be difficult to spot in a child with whom you don’t live - much as other forms of abuse are. However, there are signs, indicators that can alert an adult (or peer) to a young person’s needs.
Changes in behavior, health or developmental concerns such as anemia, lack of medical care or poor language skills, and poor hygiene can all be signs of neglect. If you suspect neglect, it’s important to listen to the child, talk with other caring adults and make a report as necessary. In Pennsylvania, reports are made via ChildLine.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Neglect is a form of abuse. Use this month to learn more about neglect and other types of abuse, so that you, too, can be a part of helping a child. It only takes one caring adult.