Neglect is the most common type of child abuse. Child care providers need to know how to identify neglect in young children.
Child neglect is a failure to provide for children’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical (hunger or inadequate clothing in cold weather), medical (refusal to seek health care when a child clearly needs medical attention), educational (failure to enroll a child of school age), or emotional (chronic or extreme spouse abuse in the child’s presence).
Neglect tends to be ongoing and chronic. Severe neglect often results in death, particularly in the case of very young children. Look for patterns when you suspect neglect. Do the signs of neglect occur rarely or frequently? Are they chronic (occurring almost every day), periodic (happening after weekends, vacations, or absences), or episodic (seen once or twice during a specific event).
Consider the possibility of neglect when...
The parent or adult caregiver:
Five-year-old "Andrea" tells her child care provider that she is tired that morning because her 6-month-old brother, Max, woke her up. She says, “My mommy wasn’t home yet, so I made Max a bottle and gave it to him. Then he finally went back to sleep.”
“Geraldine,” 4 years old, tells her child care provider that she is very hungry because she didn’t have any breakfast. When asked why she didn’t eat, Geraldine says that her father took her breakfast away from her because she spilled a glass of milk on the floor.
“David,” 4 months old, arrives at his family child care home with a severe diaper rash. The family child care provider lets his mother know about the rash and asks for permission to use some ointment that will heal David’s skin and protect it from further irritation. The mother says, "If you’ve got to put that greasy stuff on, go ahead." The provider uses the ointment all week and the rash goes away. She gives the mother the tube to take home and use over the weekend. On Monday morning David arrives with the rash again. This pattern is repeated every week over a four-week period.
To learn more about preventing, recognizing, and handling child abuse and neglect in child care settings, visit the Child Abuse and Neglect section, or check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: