Child neglect occurs when parents or guardians fail to provide adequate care to a child. The neglect can be physical, medical, educational, or emotional in nature. Some cases of neglect are easy to spot, while numerous others go unnoticed. While solitary incidents can be just as detrimental as recurring ones, the term child neglect is typically reserved for instances of repeated or long-term neglectful behavior. Also, child neglect should not be confused with child abuse, which involves intentionally causing physical injury to a child.
The most outwardly noticeable form of child neglect is related to the physical aspects of the act. If a parent or guardian is unable to properly feed their child or provide adequate shelter or lodging, they may be found neglectful. Parents and guardians can also be deemed neglectful if they fail to provide adequate levels of supervision for the child in their care and can sometimes be found liable for any illegal act the child commits while unsupervised.
Another form of child neglect involves withholding medical treatment from a sick or injured child. This can be a great topic of controversy, as there are many religions that do not permit the use of modern medicine for treating many illnesses. In most cases, the determination has been made that the health and safety of the child is the main priority and medically necessary treatments in life or death situations should not be withheld on the grounds of religious beliefs.
With regards to educational child neglect, the parent or guardian is responsible for providing adequate education for the child in their care. This includes meeting all of the local and national education requirements. Failure to provide a traditional or modified education opportunity to a child is, by law, considered neglectful, as it can severely impair the proper development of the child's learning ability.
Another aspect of child neglect involves the lack of emotional support for a child. Emotional neglect can entail a blatant lack of social interaction with the child, as well as ongoing behaviors that can reduce the child's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. While emotional neglect may not seem as severe as the other types of neglect, the impact on a child's emotional well-being can be detrimental and severely impair her emotional capacity later in life.
When a parent or guardian is found to be neglectful, it may not always be considered an intentional act. Many external influences, such as poverty, homelessness, religion, or cultural beliefs, can create situations where neglect may occur. In these cases, there are numerous aid programs and counseling opportunities that can assist parents and guardians by providing the necessary resources to properly care for themselves and their child. Other times, the parent or guardian can be found intentionally neglectful and can potentially face criminal charges.