Fear of repercussions or doubts that you interpreted the situation correctly often prevents citizens from reporting possible child neglect. It is not your responsibility to determine neglect, but as a concerned individual, you must report any suspicions in order to not have regrets later. The law enforcement officials and the child protective services will determine if neglect or abuse is indeed present in the situation. Reporting the suspicion through the proper channels will very likely help the child by enabling the parent to receive necessary guidance and assistance. The report may even save the life of a child.
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Recognise the signs of abuse. It is not just fractures and bruises; neglect and emotional abuse may leave just as damaging, long-term, emotional scars on the child. Neglect is failure to take care of the basic needs of the child, such as food and water, shelter, hygiene and providing adequate supervision. Frequent occurences of tardiness or absence from school, matted or dirty hair, body odour, the wrong clothing for the weather conditions or untreated illnesses are all signs of neglect.
Talk to the neglected child calmly and in a soothing tone if she approaches the subject of her neglect with you. One of the biggest fears she may have is that no one will believe her. Assure her that you do believe her and don't allow yourself to express shock or disbelief at what she says. It is also important to reassure the child she did nothing to deserve this type of treatment. Get as many details as possible, as whoever takes your report will need this information.
Contact the child protective services in your county. The office may also be known as human, social or family services. They are able to conduct the proper investigation to determine if neglect does exist. If you live in a small town and do not know who to contact, call the police or emergency number. Reasonable suspicions in your mind are all that is necessary to report the neglect. Follow your instincts; if you feel something is wrong, there is a large possibility that you are correct.
Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. Their phone number is 1-800-422-4453. The office is open 24 hours each day. A professional crisis counsellor will speak to you. The call is anonymous; you do not have to give any personal information. The counsellor has the information to contact any resources, support or emergency officials, no matter where the child lives.
Tips and warnings
- A parent's neglect of the child is sometimes due to mental or physical illness, such as anxiety, undiagnosed cases of depression or other disabling conditions. At other times, it may be due to impaired judgment as a result of drug or alcohol abuse by the parent. Child protective services can often offer services to the parent to assist them in better caring for their children. The main priority of child protective services is to keep children in their home. Don't let your fear of destroying the family unit prevent you from reporting neglect.
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