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Possible indicators of neglect

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By themselves, these signs do not prove abuse or neglect. But they do tell us we need to know more about the child's or youth's circumstances. They can be the result of phenomena such as divorce, separation, death of a significant person or the arrival of a new sibling. That's why indicators must be assessed by professionals. The important thing to know is what the signs are, and how to report them if a child or youth may need protection.

Physical indicators

(Many physical indicators listed in the Possible indicators of physical abuse page can also indicate neglect.)

  • abandonment
  • lack of shelter
  • unattended medical and dental needs
  • consistent lack of supervision
  • ingestion of cleaning fluids, medicines, etc.
  • consistent hunger
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • inappropriate dress for weather conditions
  • poor hygiene
  • persistent (untreated) conditions (e.g. scabies, head lice, diaper rash, or other skin disorders)
  • developmental delays (e.g. language, weight)
  • irregular or nonattendance at school or child care
  • not registered in school
  • not attending school

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Behavioural Indicators

  • depression
  • poor impulse control
  • demands constant attention and affection
  • lack of parental participation and interest
  • delinquency
  • misuse of alcohol/drugs
  • regularly displays fatigue or listlessness, falls asleep in class
  • steals food, or begs for food from classmate(s)
  • reports that no caregiver is at home
  • frequently absent or tardy
  • self-destructive
  • drops out of school (adolescent)
  • takes over adult caring role (of parent)
  • lacks trust in others, unpredictable
  • plans only for the moment

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