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Neglect

Neglect is most often defined as an omission to provide appropriate care, but varying explanations of "appropriate" leads to challenges in identifying this form of child abuse. Neglectful situations can occur over short or long periods of time and have significantly different impacts on children. The statistics cited here are from the Child Welfare Gateway.

What is child neglect?

During 2008, 71% of all child victims experienced neglect, making it the most common form of child abuse. Neglect is the failure to provide for a child's basic needs. This may include failure to provide food, clothing, medical care, education and other basic necessities needed for age appropriate physical, emotional and intellectual development. Neglect is often characterized by an ongoing pattern of inadequate care and may be more apparent to individuals in regular contact with the child.

At times, poverty, cultural values or standards of care in a community may be contributing factors to neglect and families may need assistance or information to overcome a challenge. Situations needing intervention may occur when the child's well-being or health is at risk after caretakers fail to utilize the information or assistance provided. All forms of neglect can severely impact a child's physical, emotional, or intellectual development.

Neglect is generally defined in terms of a chronic situation leading to inadequate development such as failure to thrive, poor self-esteem, serious physical illness, inability to develop basic skills, or disruptive behaviors.

The types of neglect:

Physical neglect -- includes failure to provide necessary food, shelter, protection from harm and/or lack of appropriate supervision.

Medical neglect -- includes failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment. Some states may protect parents' rights to choose spiritual treatment for medical issues.

Educational neglect -- is the failure to educate a child or tend to special educational needs.

Emotional neglect -- is inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs.

What can be done?

The longer neglect continues, the greater the potential for serious and long term emotional and psychological difficulties for the child. If you suspect a child is being neglected, please make a report to your local Child Protective Services Department (check your local yellow pages under child abuse). If a child is in immediate danger, please call the police. For crisis counseling, call ChildHelp at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.