Neglect, Abandonment/Separation & Caregiver Incapacity

Neglect occurs when a child is at risk of or has been harmed as a result of the parent/guardian/ caregiver failure to adequately supervise, protect, care for or provide for a child. Neglect also occurs when a child has a medical, mental, emotional or developmental condition that requires services or treatment and the person having charge of the child does not provide these services or treatment.

Note:  Most parent and caregivers do not intend to neglect their children. Instead, neglect is usually the result of ignorance about parenting and an inability to plan ahead. When a caregiver fails to provide a child’s basic needs like food, sleep, safety, supervision, appropriate clothing or medical treatment on a consistent basis, this is neglect.

In addition to the above forms of abuse and neglect, there are other forms of abuse which may be overlooked. These include abandonment/separation, caregiver incapacity, and domestic violence. It is important to consider these in addition to forms of abuse and neglect.

Abandonment/separation occurs when a child has been left alone unsupervised, or when a parent or guardian is unavailable to exercise his or her custodial rights over a child and has not made adequate provision for a child’s care and custody. It also occurs when a child is in residential placement and the parent refuses, or is unable or unwilling, to resume the child’s care and custody.

Caregiver incapacity is when a caregiver demonstrates, or has demonstrated in the past, characteristics that indicate the child would be at risk of harm without intervention. These characteristics can include a history of abusing/neglecting a child, being unable to protect a child from harm, problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, mental health issues or limited caregiving skills. Note this means that no harm has come to a child as of yet and no evidence is apparent that a child may be in need of intervention but that there may be need in the future.

The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow:

It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been neglected.

In most instances, neglected children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Physical indicators in children

  • Poor hygiene

  • Unattended physical problems or medical needs such as dental work or glasses

  • consistent lack of supervision

Behavioural indicators in children

  • Pale, listless (appears to have little energy), unkempt

  • Frequent absences from school

  • Inappropriate clothing for the weather, dirty clothes

  • Frequently forgets a lunch

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