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Child Abuse Prevention: How You Can Become a Lifesaver

When someone says child neglect, what image springs to mind? A hungry child? A child without a winter coat or decent shoes? Families served at soup kitchens, children with matted hair, or those who are unbathed? While these images may represent some neglected children, neglect itself is a varied and misunderstood form of child abuse. National Child Abuse Prevention Month provides a call to action to remind teachers, caregivers, and parents what neglect looks like and how they can literally become a lifesaver. 

The Facts

  • Child neglect can happen by any person who is responsible for caring for a child: a parent, a child care provider, or a babysitter.
  • Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and is identified as the cause of death in more than one third of all child maltreatment fatalities.
  • Children can be neglected in many ways:
    • Not being supervised
    • Not being given medical care
    • Not being given adequate food, water, or shelter
    • Not being nurtured appropriately
    • Not being taken to school (if school age)
    • Being raised in a filthy or unsafe environment

The Risks

  • All of the types of neglect listed above can have serious consequences for children's survival, brain development, and growth.
  • Because neglect can be serious, even fatal, it is required to be reported to state child protective services. If you suspect you know a child who is not being supervised or otherwise cared for, you can call directly or speak to your child's teacher about how to make a report.

What You Can Do

  • The most important thing you can do is to supervise your child by sight and sound at all times and, when you cannot be with your child, to choose a caregiver who will do the same.
  • Be especially aware of common hazards such as bodies of water, lack of smoke detectors, and unsafe sleeping conditions.
  • If you are having trouble meeting your child's basic needs, you can contact child protection directly or contact your child's teacher for a consultation on how to access resources you may need.

For more information on child neglect and supporting young children who experience trauma, refer to these books: The Neglected Child and Helping them Heal

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