Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting


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The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System defines neglect as "a type of maltreatment that refers to the failure by the caregiver to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so or offered financial or other means to do so." Neglect is usually typified by an ongoing pattern of inadequate care and is readily observed by individuals in close contact with the student. Physicians, nurses, day care personnel, relatives and neighbors are frequently the ones to suspect and report neglect in infants, toddlers and preschool aged children. Once children are in school, school personnel often notice indicators of student neglect such as poor hygiene, poor weight gain, inadequate medical care or frequent absences from school.

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Neglect may be:

  • Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
  • Educational (e.g., failure to educate a student or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a student's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the student to use alcohol or other drugs)

These situations do not always mean a student is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the student's health or safety is at risk, then student welfare intervention may be required. In addition, many States provide an exception to the definition of neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs that may prohibit medical intervention.

Identifying and Preventing Child Neglect Among Students

Increasing services to families such as home visiting, early childhood education, parent education, and family planning. Child neglect often occurs because parents are overwhelmed with an array of stressors, including the difficulties of coping with poverty and its many associated burdens, single parenthood, limited parenting skills, depression, substance abuse, interpersonal violence, not to mention the daily stressors all parents face. Services such as home visiting, early childhood education, and parent education, provide emotional support, knowledge, and guidance on how to be a good parent. Family planning helps parents determine whether they are ready to have a child, the number of children they wish to have, and helps parents effectively manage the children they already have.

Preventing child neglect includes providing mental health services to parents who need and want such services, and making mental health services available to victims of child neglect as early as possible to prevent the future perpetuation of neglect. Many cases of chronic neglect involve emotionally unstable and depressed parents - those who experienced poor attachment to their primary caregivers when they themselves were children. Mental health services may help such parents become more emotionally stable and less depressed, and better able to adequately care for their children.

In addition, students often face severe and potentially long-term psychological consequences as a result of child neglect. Mental health services, especially in the early stages of neglect, can help mitigate some of these consequences and can help ensure that neglect is not perpetuated in the future.

Information provided by: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Student Welfare Information Gateway, the American Humane Association and Prevent Child Abuse of America.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal advice.

School Social Work Department
Cobb County School District
514 Glover Street
Marietta, GA 30060
Phone: 678-581-6811
Fax: 770-590-4556

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