It is a horrible thought, but there are babies and children in our communities that are suffering from neglect.
Child neglect is much more common than most people realize, and is defined as the failure to provide basic necessities for a helpless child. If a child is not receiving proper nutrition, age and weather-appropriate clothing or adequate supervision, the child is a victim of neglect.
Unfortunately, a neglected child is not always easy to identify. In some cases, neglect is the result of a parent not being mentally or physically able to take care of a child due to anxiety, depression or a serious illness. In other cases, abuse of alcohol or drugs impair a parent’s reasoning or judgement, and neglect is the tragic result.
If a child is older, he or she may be used to taking care of his or herself, and not exhibit any outward signs of neglect. Despite the appearance that everything is alright, a child may be suffering in silence. They may be meeting physical needs on their own, but still have emotional needs that are often not being fulfilled.
The effects of neglect can stay with a child throughout his or her life. Neglect can take a variety of different forms. In some cases, a child is left home alone for long periods of time. In others, the child may even pass away due to lack of food and water. If a child survives neglect, he or she could be left with life-long disabilities.
Neglect can be extremely difficult to identify. The earlier a child is removed from a neglectful situation, the better his or her chance is of leading healthy and happy life. It is important to remember that a child exhibiting the signs and symptoms mentioned below may not be suffering from neglect. They are, however, red flags, especially when more than one possible sign of neglect is noted. If one or more are noticed, it is worth looking into the issue further to rule out the possibility that a child is being neglected.
15 Malnutrition, Begging, Stealing Or Hoarding Food
Children and babies that are malnourished or aren't fed enough are a difficult sight to see.
Babies that don't get enough food, constantly cry in hunger until they are too weak to cry at all. When they do get fed, they gobble their food down thinking that this meal may be their last for a while or may be taken away from them. If they eat too fast they can get even sick and vomit up the food.
Older children may steal items from their peer’s lunchboxes from either day-care or school, or ask the canteen staff if there is any food left over. They may not eat these items straight away but hide them for later for when they get hungry. Also, they may spend a lot of time at a friend's place, especially if they are offered meals and they will rarely share their food as they are not sure when they will next get fed.
There is also the physiological abuse of the withholding of food as a punishment that can greatly affect children.
14 Poor Hygiene, Matted Hair, Dirty Skin Or Body Odor
Babies or children that may suffer from neglect could be smelly or dirty and not just the normal daily dirt but days or weeks of built up dirt and grime. They could have unwashed clothes or totally inadequate clothing. They can have poor hygiene and seem to have never have had a bath. They suffer from body odor and don't seem to notice. Their hair may be matted, unclean and suffer from lice. Babies may suffering from frequent nappy rash and it may continue to be untreated.
Children that suffer from this kind of neglect could also have very low self-esteem and can either be withdrawn and antisocial or can go to the opposite extreme and lash out at those who cross them. Some children just act if they don't seem to care about their hygiene, clothes or their overall image to others and that also can be a sign of neglect.
13 Unattended Physical Or Medical Problems
Other signs of neglect could be that the child or children in the same family have unattended physical or medical problems.
They could have bruises, sores, scabs, untreated cuts or abrasions that have become infected. They may be running a high fever or suffering from a childhood sickness which is unnoticed by their family. They may have repeated accidental injuries caused by lack of supervision. They could have recurring illnesses or infections and not been given the appropriate medicines.
They have missed medical appointments such as vaccinations. They could have poor muscle tone or prominent joints, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm. Their stomach may be thin or swollen. They may suffer from anemia and be overly tired.
Unattended physical or medical problems can also have an effect on the child's mental state. They may assume that these physical problems make them inadequate or different from other children. They may be bullied for their lack of health and physical well-being which can cause depression and affect them physically and mentally further.
12 Comments From A Child That No One Is Home To Provide Care
In some instances, children do eventually come forth with pieces of information of what is happening in their households. It could be a side comment that they are hungry for there is no food to eat or that the washing wasn't done, which means there is no clean clothes to wear. If probed, they might nod to confirm that they are sick or that their siblings are sick or that mom or dad aren't home. It is up to us as adults to understand what they are saying or doing, listen to them and not dismiss their plight as someone else's problem but act.
Being left at home alone for extended periods of time can take a toll on children, and may have lasting effects. It is crucial that children get love and affection from their parents or another assigned caregiver. If children do not receive the attention and care needed to thrive while young and impressionable, they may struggle to form healthy relationships later in life. Neglected children are at a higher risk of dealing with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Other risks posed to children not getting the care they crave include running away from home, substance abuse, unhealthy or dangerous relationships and even sexual exploitation.
11 Lack Of Attachment Between The Child And It's Parents
If a child seems emotionally detached from his or her parents or caregiver, neglect may be to blame. A harsh reality of neglect imposed by a parent or primary caregiver is the negative effects it can have on an affected child throughout his or her life. Children who do not have a strong bond with a parent or other primary caregiver often experience a lack of self-esteem. They may misbehave in an effort to garner attention from a parent or caregiver, feeling even negative attention is better than none at all.
The lack of a bond with a parent or caregiver can have lasting effects in a child’s life. He or she may struggle to form a bond with his or her own children. Luckily, if neglect is spotted early, and a child is able to form a bond with a trusted adult, the inability to form attachments may not be an issue in adulthood. This is yet another reason it is imperative to be on the look-out for signifiers of neglect. The sooner a child is removed from a negative situation, the better his or her chances are of thriving throughout his or her life.
10 Frequent Lateness Or Absence From School
The professionals call this Educational neglect. This is allowing your child to skip school frequently. Also, if you don't enrol your child in school when he's reached the mandatory age, or you don't seek special educational help if your child needs it, this may be considered neglectful. A parent may be unaware that her child is skipping school, but truancy can also signal neglect.
Neglected children may not have enough supervision at home to help them prepare for and get to school regularly. Parental or caregiver absence in the home contributes greatly to a child missing school.
The negative effects of missing copious amounts of school abound. Children who are excessively absent from school are at greater risk of eventually dropping out. Dropping out could in turn lead to limited job opportunities due to lack of education. Lack of steady or gainful employment poses a greater risk of poverty and unemployment, which, in some cases, leads to and possible incarceration due to criminal activity.
9 Inappropriate Clothing
This form of neglect, the lack of providing the basic needs for a child, such as adequate and suitable clothing, adequate and appropriate shoes as well as basic hygiene product such as soap and clean water.
Parents have a legal obligation to look after their children until they are 18. This means they have a duty to provide their children with the things they need such as food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and protection.
If parents do not provide these basic needs for their child or children they can be accountable in the court of law.
Children who do not have these basic needs provided for can become not only physically unwell, e.g. wearing inappropriate clothing in winter and getting very sick, but can also become mentally unwell. They can come to think that they are unworthy to receive these basic things such as clothing and food.
8 Frequent Illness, Infections Or Sores
Frequent illnesses, reoccurring illnesses, untreated infections and sores can all be signs of child neglect.
Babies with unattended nappy rash, urine burns, and untreated childhood diseases are also suffering from some form of neglect from their parents or caregivers
In the early years of life, the children’s brains are developing at a rapid rate. They are forming memories and gaining understanding about the world that surrounds them. If they are neglected during the early years of their lives, the cells in their brain may weaken, resulting in abnormal brain development. Malnourishment may also cause damage to the cells in the brain.
Not only do the effects of neglect hinder a child’s brain development, they may also lead to problems later on in his or her life. A child who has not formed the appropriate attachments, or who has been left to fend for his or herself may suffer from depression, memory impairments, post-traumatic stress disorder, hyperactivity disorder or panic disorder later in life.
7 Being Left Unsupervised For Long Periods
Children who are left alone for long periods of time, especially at an age when they are too young to meet their own basic needs such as eating, drinking and going to the bathroom, are being neglected. If parents or caregivers are leaving a child alone, the child’s ability to trust parents or caregivers and bond with them will be inhibited. The relationship between parent and child will suffer as a result.
In some tragic cases, children are left alone for so long, they pass away due to lack of food or water. Children who are left unattended in vehicles on hot days may also pass away due to heat stroke.
Those who do survive long periods alone will still deal with lasting consequences. Not only does a lack of bond with a parent have a lasting negative impact on a child’s relationship with the parent or caregiver, he or she may struggle to form lasting relationships throughout life, including romantic relationships. A neglected child may also struggle to bond with his or her own children.
6 Slower-Than-Normal Development
A child suffering from neglect may develop more slowly than other children, and may fail to meet developmental milestones. A child may also show signs of regression. This means the child loses abilities he or she once had. For example, a child has rolled over or started to crawl, then reverts to simply lying on his or her back or stomach and doesn’t attempt to continue progressing or practice the behavior that has been exhibited in the past.
There are many reasons a child may fail to develop or regress due to neglect. First and foremost, children need sensory stimulation to help their brains develop properly. The primary way most children receive this stimulation is from a parent or primary caregiver. If the child is not being smiled at, talked to, sung to and comforted brain development can be affected.
If a mother fails to react to her child’s cries or smiles, she is exhibiting unresponsive behavior. Over time, if a mother, father or other caregiver does not respond to Baby, he or she may fail to progress, or regress. Reasons for unresponsive behavior include extreme drug and alcohol abuse, chronic illness, or may be due to the fact that the baby was the result of an unwanted pregnancy.
5 Failure To Thrive
A child who has been diagnosed as failing to thrive may be developing slowly in physical growth or failing to reach important milestones such as rolling over, crawling, sitting upright and walking at the appropriate times.
While some children fail to thrive due to serious medical conditions such as anemia or a thyroid disorder, many don’t thrive due to neglect. Not getting enough to eat may stunt growth. If a parent caregiver is not aware of how to meet a child’s needs, or is suffering from severe depression, the child may fail to develop and grow as normal.
It is heartbreaking to think that a child’s entire life may be altered due to the failure of those entrusted with the task of caring for him or her not doing their job. One encouraging fact remains: if a baby is taken out of a neglectful situation and placed with loving caregivers willing to give him or her what he or she needs when he or she needs it, the child can overcome delays of the past and thrive in the future. This makes it all the more important for those who suspect a baby is being neglected to report their suspicions to the proper authorities such as the police or Child Protective Services.
4 Unusual Interaction With A Parent
If a parent or caregiver seems uninterested in interacting with his or her child, due to work obligations, constant travel or the inability to connect, the child may be suffering from neglect. In addition, if a parent and child fail to get along and are constantly at odds, it may be a sign that something is amiss.
In domestic violence situations, the child may actually be afraid of the parent causing the child to hide, or tip-toe around the adult thus having strained relationships or no relationship at all between adult and child.
In extreme cases, the child may not return home and either sleep at a friend's house or on the streets to avoid the neglect and violence at home.
3 Mental Health Problems
On many occasions, depression and anxiety disorders are present in a child who is being abused or neglected. This is especially true for adolescents.
Over two decades of research it has been demonstrated that the potential negative impact of child abuse and neglect affects a child's mental health. Some of these effects could include: depression, anxiety disorders, poor self-esteem aggressive behavior, suicide attempts, eating disorders, use of illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress, dissociation, sexual difficulties, self-harming behaviors and personality disorders.
In fact, children who have suffered abuse or neglect at some point in their lives are up to three times more likely to have a depressive disorder than children who have not been mistreated.
So, if the child experiences one or more of the signs of neglect, they have a chance, if not treated or helped, to suffer from a mental health disorder.
2 Behaving In A Way That Isn't Appropriate Or That Causes Problems
All children misbehave at times, but if a child’s behavior is extreme, it may be a sign of neglect. Children who are suffering from neglect may use inappropriate language, become overly aggressive or violent, or become overly withdrawn or unusually emotional. Older children may turn to sex, drug use or may even run away from home.
These forms of attention grabbing behavior are designed to have their parents or caregivers notice or take action against them stimulating attention, even if it is negative attention. These children may have had to fight for attention from their parents or caregivers in the past and have seen a result, even if it was a negative one. They continue and even escalate their bad behavior in the future to get the same results.
This behavior is more of a symptom of a combination of other neglectful acts that have been forced on the child.
1 Being Very Overweight
There are documented cases where whether allowing a child to become obese is neglect and child abuse. Recently, two children in Victoria, Australia were taken from parents that were deemed neglectful due to the fact that they were allowing their children to eat unhealthy amounts and types of food.
Of course, obesity in and of itself is not enough to come to the conclusion that a child is suffering from abuse or neglect. It is, however, one potential factor. If a child’s health is at risk due to eating habits the parents allow, the parents are not meeting their offspring’s medical needs. Health care professionals have the right to contact authorities if they feel a parent is putting a child at risk by not offering healthy foods or allowing a child to overeat excessively.
Another example of obesity being grounds for intervention took place in Texas in 2002. A child was removed from a situation due partially to the fact that the five-year-old was morbidly obese: weighing well over the recommended weight limit for that age at 136 pounds and already suffering from difficulty breathing and mild congestive heart failure.
Obesity may be considered a form of neglect, but is not always grounds to remove a child from parents or caregivers. If a child’s health is at risk due to the actions of parents or caregivers, authorities will determine whether or not interventions are required to keep a child safe.