Twenty-two percent of children in the United States live in families with incomes below the poverty level. While this alone is a frightening statistic, it becomes even more alarming when you realize that poverty has a direct correlation to child maltreatment.
A 2010 study of child abuse and neglect led by Andrea J. Sedlak, PhD, found that children living in lower-income or poverty-level households are three times more likely to become victims of neglect, or physical or sexual abuse. In most cases one or more parent is the perpetrator.
An additional contributor to poverty’s link to maltreatment is welfare. Cut welfare benefits and you’ll see an increase in child neglect. This grim fact is part of a National Bureau of Economic Research study by Christina Paxson and Jane Waldfogel, titled “Work, Welfare and Child Maltreatment.”
Child neglect is not always easy to pinpoint, and it takes many forms: physical, emotional, medical, and educational. Physical neglect involves ignoring a child’s basic needs for adequate food, clothing or shelter; leaving a child unsupervised; or worse, abandonment. Emotional neglect includes withholding love or support, belittling, isolating, exploiting, and allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol. Medical neglect involves failing to provide needed services or appropriate care for chronic diseases or other illnesses because of disregard for the child rather than a lack of funds. And educational neglect occurs when a caregiver does not ensure that a child gets an appropriate education.
There are many visible warning signs of child neglect, and if you work with or are exposed to children, it is important to know them. These include:
- Wearing soiled clothing or clothing that is ill-fitting or in need of repair.
- Being improperly dressed for the weather.
- Coming to school hungry or looking emaciated; hoarding, stealing, or begging for food.
- Showing lack of energy, listlessness.
- Poor hygiene, dirty or decaying teeth.
- Having untended medical issues, such as untreated wounds.
- Mentioning there is no one at home to provide care.
If you notice or suspect a child may be a victim of neglect, contact one of the following immediately:
- Local law enforcement or 911
- The National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-422-4453)
- Local Department of Child Services or Child Protective Service Agency
Many children who are victims of neglect are frequently overlooked. Just being more aware may help. Let’s all do our part.
BeAKidsHero™ is an initiative to educate parents, teachers and other caring adults around the globe about protecting the children in their lives from abuse and neglect. Founded by Child Advocate and Child Forensic Interviewer Ginger Kadlec, www.beakidshero.com spotlights child protection best practices and tips, as well as features a host of resources and information about issues related to child abuse awareness, prevention and intervention ranging from child sexual abuse facts and prevention to cyberbullying, sextortion and Internet safety. Parents are invited to participate in a free three-part video training series about protecting kids of all ages from sexual abuse. To enroll, visit www.sexualabusepreventionsystem.com.
The BeAKidsHero™ column on CW NEWS is released biweekly on Tuesdays.