Preventing neglect helps ensure a healthy future for children and our community. All too often, neglect goes unnoticed. It gets less attention that other types of abuse and it can be harder to see and to stop.
But not giving a child basic care, protection or attention can be just as harmful as hitting or shaking a child. In fact, more children are hurt from neglect than any other type of abuse.
Neglect hurts everyone. Neglected children often have learning problems, low self-esteem, physical, emotional, or speech problems, and trouble getting along with other children. These effects can lead to long-term problems that impact the whole community such as criminal, violent or angry behavior, difficulty in trusting others and forming relationships, alcohol or other drug use problems, mental illness, or ongoing health problems.
One common misunderstanding is that neglect means a lack of love for a child. But this is not the case. Often there are other issues at play that affect a parent's ability to care for a child. These may include personal problems, lack of parenting skills, financial stress, or alcohol or other drug abuse. To prevent child neglect, parents need help to overcome these challenges.
The key is support for parents and families. With support, everyone can improve their parenting skills and knowledge. For example, some parents may need:
- Affordable child care so they can go to school or find a better job
- Counseling for personal problems or alcohol or other drug use
- Parenting classes to learn how to best care for their children and deal with challenging behavior.
A caring community can make a world of difference. Every sector of society can make an impact in preventing neglect by reaching out to parents and caregivers to help them overcome their challenges. This can be done through schools, child care providers, parent support groups, home visiting programs, religious organizations, health care providers, mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, and even police officers. A community that works together knows no limits as to how to find creative ways to support parents who are struggling.
And from time to time, every parent just needs a friend to talk to. Individuals can make a difference too, everyone has something valuable to offer. Start by taking care of yourself and your own family, but also support other parents in your life. Be kind to children, all children, you never know what they are experiencing at home. Give what you can when you can: become a mentor, volunteer at a school or resource center, donate money or items where needed, or become a foster parent. Getting active in your community is a way to help support local parents and families, and in this way everyone is encouraged to realize that prevention is a shared responsibility.
Child neglect is preventable. and preventing it is a shared responsibility. Working together, we can all help give parents and caregivers the support and tools they need to handle situations that often lead to neglect.
It's true that parents can't meet every need all all the time. But the signs of neglect should never be ignored. If you feel a child in your life is experiencing neglect or abuse please reach out to help that child. If you think a child is at risk, we encourage you to call our local Child Protective Services, their goal is keep families together, but would never want a child to remain in a dangerous environment, (209) 223-6550. And for general questions or more information y
ou can call us here at Child Abuse Prevention Council, (209) 223-5921.
To learn more about preventing and responding to neglect contact
Prevent Child Abuse America
. For other resources to support families and children visit these websites:
Circle of Parents
This article has been adapted from a handout from Prevent Child Abuse America.