The Epidemic of Child Abuse

The following information is from the American Society for the Positive Care of Children

“It is easy to read statistics without grasping the human suffering behind the numbers. Each number represents a child’s life. Each human life touches hundreds of others. The ramifications of child abuse and neglect are exponential”.

Types of Child Abuse: Eight different types of child abuse are listed on the American SPCC website.  Below is a short summary of what each entail.

CHILD NEGLECT:  More children die from neglect than any other form of child abuse.  Children living through abuse and violence unnecessarily suffer the ill effects of this trauma for the rest of their lives.

PHYSICAL NEGLECT:  Physical neglect is the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a parent or caretaker under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child’s health, safety, or welfare.  The term includes both acts of commission and omissions on the part of the responsible person.

  • General Neglect General neglect means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred. An example of inadequate supervision is when parents leave their children unsupervised during the hours when the children are out of school. These parents are often unable to arrange childcare services to meet their needs. Although these parents may not regard themselves as “neglecting their children,” leaving young children without supervision may constitute general neglect.
  • Severe Neglect – Severe neglect means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed non-organic failure to thrive.  This includes the intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

PRENATAL NEGLECT:    Prenatal neglect is chronic maternal substance (drug or alcohol) abuse coupled with significant risk factors that indicate the parent’s inability to provide the child with adequate care.

These babies are often born addicted to the drugs the mother was taking during pregnancy, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal in the newborn.

Every 25 minutes a child is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.

PSYCHO-SOCIAL FAILURE TO THRIVE:  There remains a large group of infants with consistently low weights and perhaps short lengths and small head circumferences. Some of these children are small because of a failure to meet their nutritional needs and/or failure to meet their emotional needs. These children may also demonstrate delayed development and abnormal behavior. Some of the small children, however, do have hidden medical problems. Failure to document physical growth and other markers of child development may prevent an accurate diagnosis and make it impossible to protect a child or provide useful intervention.

If left untreated, the physical and/or emotional health of the child may be endangered, and emotional disorders, academic issues, retardation, and other problems may result.

Indications of Neglect

Neglect may be suspected if any of the following conditions exist:

  • The child is lacking adequate medical or dental care.
  • The child is often sleepy or hungry.
  • The child is often dirty, demonstrates poor personal hygiene, or is inadequately dressed for weather conditions.
  • The child is depressed, withdrawn or apathetic; exhibits antisocial or destructive behavior, shows exaggerated fearfulness; or suffers from substance abuse, or speech, eating, or habit disorders (biting, rocking, whining).
  • There is evidence of poor supervision (repeated falls down stairs; repeated ingestion of harmful substances; a child cared for by another child); the child is left alone in the home, or unsupervised under any circumstances (left in car, street).
  • The conditions in the home are unsanitary (garbage, animal, or human excrement); the home lacks heating or plumbing; there are fire hazards or other unsafe home conditions; the sleeping arrangements are cold, dirty, or otherwise inadequate.
  • The nutritional quality of food in the home is poor; meals are not prepared; refrigerator or cupboards contain spoiled food.

While some of these conditions may exist in any home environment for a variety of different reasons, e.g., poverty, welfare reform, and limitations on entitlement programs, it is the extreme or persistent presence of these factors that indicate some degree of neglect.

Disarray and an untidy home do not necessarily mean the home is unfit. Extreme conditions resulting in an “unfit home” constitute neglect that may justify protective custody and dependency proceedings under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, as well as criminal neglect charges.