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Child neglect

Girl hugging legs into body

Neglect is when a child’s essential needs are not met, placing the child at risk of significant harm. A child suffering neglect may not be receiving sufficient love, food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, education, health care, access to friends and access to culture and community.

Other types of neglect include not being adequately supervised, not exposed to developmental opportunities and stimulation, such as play, or not being protected from harm.

A child may be suffering neglect if they are denied care, attention, nurturing and affection - essential to healthy childhood development.

In some cases, child neglect can be fatal or cause life-long disabilities and problems. Neglect can occur to children and adolescents of all ages but has higher risk for life threatening or life altering impacts for babies and young children.

Signs of child neglect

Some signs of child neglect include:

  • Health: Untreated or unexplained injuries and dental issues. Ongoing or frequent skin sores, rashes, parasites and infections. Illnesses not treated, poor growth.
  • Appearance: Dishevelled, unwashed body, dirty or inadequate clothes, unchanged nappies, swollen tummy or failure to put on weight, poor communication skills, delayed development for their age. Constantly appearing tired.
  • Environment: Unhygienic or unsafe living arrangements, including living amongst pet faeces, vermin or rubbish. Child left alone for long periods of time or left alone in vehicles or in other unsafe situations.
  • Behaviours: Eating large amounts or hiding food for later, problems speaking or communicating, or seeking affection from strangers. Frequent absences from school.

Getting help

Worried about yourself, a friend or another family member? Get help here.

Find out more

For information on child neglect, including information on reporting child abuse and neglect, please refer to the DHHS website.