Frequently Asked Question about Child Neglect

What are the signs or symptoms of child neglect?

Just as there are various types of neglect, the symptoms of neglect may vary from child to child. Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. 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 child or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)

At what age can a child be left home alone?

State child abuse and neglect reporting laws do not specify the age at which a child can be left home alone. No consistent community standards exist describing when and under what circumstances children can be left alone or in the care of other children.

What should I do if I suspect child neglect?

All states have a system to receive and respond to reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. If you suspect a child is being harmed, or has been harmed, you should report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, such as child protective services (CPS) in the state where the child resides. Each state has trained professionals who can evaluate the situation and determine whether help and services are needed. Most states have a toll-free number to call to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The number for Pennsylvania is (800) 932-0313.

Another resource for information about how and where to file a report of suspected child abuse or neglect is the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline. Childhelp® can be reached 7 days a week, 24-hours a day at its toll-free number, 1.800.4-A-CHILD® (1.800.422.4453).

How many children die each year due to neglect?

According to Child Maltreatment, an estimated 1,546 children died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2014.

How many children are neglected each year?

According to Child Maltreatment 2010, the most recent report of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), a nationally estimated 754,000 duplicate and 695,000 unique number of children were found to be victims of child maltreatment in the Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2010.

Based on the unique number of victims, an estimated 78 percent (78.3) suffered neglect, an estimated 18 percent (17.6) were physically abused, an estimated 9 percent (9.2) were sexually abused, an estimated 8 percent (8.1) were psychologically maltreated, and an estimated 2 percent (2.4) were medically neglected.


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