What is neglect?

Neglect includes a failure to provide the child with

  • an adequate standard of nutrition
  • medical care
  • clothing
  • shelter
  • supervision to the extent that the health or physical development of the child is significantly impaired or placed at serious risk.

In some circumstances the neglect of a child:

  • can place the child's immediate safety and development at serious risk
  • may not immediately compromise the safety of the child, but is likely to result in longer term cumulative harm.

This includes low-to-moderate concerns for the wellbeing of a child, such as:

  • concerns due to conflict within a family
  • parenting difficulties
  • isolation of a family or a lack of apparent support

Both forms of neglect must be responded to via the Four Critical Actions for Early Childhood Services.

What are the physical indicators of neglect?

Physical indicators of neglect include (but are not limited to):

  • appearing consistently dirty and unwashed
  • being consistently inappropriately dressed for weather conditions
  • being at risk of injury or harm due to consistent lack of adequate supervision from parents
  • being consistently hungry, tired and listless
  • having unattended health problems and lack of routine medical care
  • having inadequate shelter and unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

What are the behavioural indicators of neglect?

Behaviour indicators of neglect include (but are not limited to):

In an infant or toddler:

  • self-stimulatory behaviours, for example, rocking, head banging
  • crying excessively or not at all
  • listless and immobile and/or emancipated and pale
  • exhibits significant delays in gross motor development and coordination
  • inadequate attention to the safety of the home (e.g. dangerous medicines left where children may have access to them)
  • being left unsupervised, either at home, on the street or in a car
  • their parent/carer is unresponsive or impatient to child's cues and unreceptive to support
  • developmental delay due to lack of stimulation.

In all children, infants and toddlers:

  • being left with older children or persons who could not reasonably be expected to provide adequate care and protection
  • gorging when food is available or inability to eat when extremely hungry
  • begging for, or stealing food
  • appearing withdrawn, listless, pale and weak
  • aggressive behaviour, irritability
  • little positive interaction with parent, carer or guardian
  • indiscriminate acts of affection and excessive friendliness towards strangers
  • exhibits significant delays in gross and fine motor development and coordination
  • poor, irregular or non-attendance at the service (where regular attendance is expected)
  • refusal or reluctance to go home
  • self-destructive behaviour
  • taking on an adult role of caring for parent.