Learning About Child Neglect

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Calls to abuse hotlines all around the country have lessened over the past couple of months, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Many children are at home with those who abuse or neglect them instead of going to their weekly activities. This means that mandated reporters such as teachers, childcare workers and church volunteers aren’t able to help those who may be in trouble. Now more than ever, it’s time to brush up your knowledge about child neglect so that when activities resume, you can keep be informed about what to look for.

This week’s timely topic that may be helpful in your role at a church or organization is child neglect.

In the United States, child neglect is not only the most prevalent type of child maltreatment, but is also the cause of nearly 80% of child fatalities resulting from abuse. Often the acts that are not done, rather than acts that are, child neglect can take many forms—from blatant to so subtle it is nearly undetectable.

A child left alone while the parent goes out on the town might be a picture “neglect” can bring to mind. However, neglect often occurs when parents and children are under the same roof. Neglect frequently goes unreported and unacknowledged, and has not been as highly studied or publicized as other types of abuse. This is, in part, because there has been a perception that neglect is not as severe a form of maltreatment as other types of child abuse.

In addition, the consequences of child neglect have not been considered to be as acute as the consequences of other types of abuse. However, according to Dr. Patricia Crittenden, renowned researcher and author on the subject, “Neglect is the most serious and least understood type of child maltreatment.” 

Neglect is assessed on a progressive scale, and the U.S. Office of Child Abuse and Neglect has established definitions for neglect:

  • Mild neglect usually does not warrant a report to a child protection agency, but might necessitate a community-based intervention, or an observer reminding or advising the parent. A parent failing to secure a child in a car safety seat once is an example of mild neglect.
  • Moderate neglect occurs when less intrusive measures, such as community interventions, have failed or some moderate harm to the child has occurred. In cases of moderate neglect, a child protective agency may be involved, along with community support, such as the child’s school. A child who is consistently dressed inappropriately for weather conditions, or whose personal hygiene is continually neglected, are examples of moderate neglect.
  • Severe neglect occurs when severe or long-term harm has been done to the child. In these cases, child protective services is usually involved, as is the legal system. A child with asthma who does not receive appropriate medications over a long period of time is an example of severe neglect. However, some situations need to occur only once in order to be considered severe neglect, such as leaving a baby in a bathtub unattended.

This information has been excerpted from the CongregationU online course “Understanding Child Neglect.” This 45-minute course can be purchased for just $12 per learner. Check out our entire course list here.