What does a neglected child look like? Is it only the dirty, hungry child? We sat down with Gryphon House author, Ginger Welch, and talked about a new book she co-authored, "The Neglected Child," asking her these questions and more. The book does everything from defining the different types and levels of severity of neglect to establishing suspicion and reporting neglectful situations. Check out what she had to say about how to identify and intervene in neglectful situations so that you can create a safe and protective environment for young children.
Q1: Why a book about child neglect? Isn’t abuse the more serious condition?
A1: Almost all children who are abused also suffer neglect; among child fatalities, more children actually die of neglect than die of abuse alone.
Q2: Isn’t neglect simply a matter of poverty? The dirty child, the hungry child, that sort of thing?
A2: Poverty and neglect can have overlapping characteristics, but most families in poverty do not neglect their children.
Q3: If neglect isn’t just associated with being poor, what types of neglect are there?
A3: We discuss six types in the book: Supervisory neglect, Environmental neglect, Educational neglect, Medical neglect, Emotional neglect, and Deprivation of needs.
Q4: Supervisory neglect is an unfamiliar term. What exactly does this mean?
A4: Supervisory neglect occurs when a person who is responsible for a child fails to adequately supervise that child, leading to dangerous or fatal conditions. Imagine a caregiver who is passed out from drug abuse who fails to monitor a two year old who then wanders away from the house, or a parent who leaves a four year old in charge of watching infant twins while the parent is at work. In these situations, the children do not have the capacity to safely care for themselves and need a caregiver to supervise them. Supervisory neglect is the most common form of fatal neglect.
Q5: It seems like parents who fail to supervise are clearly in the wrong. Do you believe there should be more criminal cases against these parents?
A5: It’s not so simple. Children can escape the supervision of even the most watchful parent, and our book in no way suggests that all parents are criminals! As a mother myself, I can tell you that young children are active! Consider, though, a parent who is very low functioning. Perhaps she is doing the best she can, but she lacks the intellectual capacity to adequately watch her child and keep him/her safe. Perhaps she forgets to drain the bathtub, or lock the front door, leading to potentially hazardous conditions for her child. Might she be neglectful? Yes. Is she responsible? I don’t think so.
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-Want to learn more about "The Neglected Child"? Check out our related post.
Biography: Ginger Welch, PhD, is a licensed pediatric psychologist and certified early childhood educator. She is an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University and a private-practice psychologist specializing in evaluation and consultation services for infants and young children, including those who have been abused or neglected. She has presented her work on child maltreatment at many national conferences, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the American Psychological Association, and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. She also has taught nationally and internationally on topics related to child development, child abuse, and counseling.