4.7 Neglectful Adults

Mother on phone with children
Photo by Vitolda Klein Unsplash License

Neglect is a common form of abuse, second only to exposure to intimate partner violence. Neglect can be separated into subtypes; physical neglect, medical neglect, and inadequate supervision.  By law, children are required to attend school in Canada, a caregiver who does not meet this expectation would be neglecting the child’s right to education and, therefore, subject to involvement by the child welfare agency. Not ensuring a child’s access to education is a type of physical or educational neglect (Crosson-Tower, 2020; Tufford, 2020; Jonson-Reid & Drake, 2018; Rimer & Prager, 2016).

The Child Youth and Family Service Act states adequate supervision must be arranged for children and youth up to the age of 18 years of age; however, children aged ten and older can be left alone for a short period of time if they are developmentally ready and able. Children under the age of 16 years cannot be left alone overnight, and children who babysit other children must be left with suitable supervision, usually no younger than at least twelve years of age and as long as they are developmentally ready to babysit other children and able to solve problems in the event of an emergency.

Neglectful caregivers may leave children unattended due to struggles with poverty or a lack of information or understanding about child and youth supervision requirements (Jonson-Reid & Drake, 2018).

Possible signs a caregiver may be neglecting child/ren can include:

  • Abandoning their child
  • Refusing to accept custody
  • Not providing for the basic needs like nutrition, hygiene and clothing
  • Not accessing medical treatment when needed
  • Delaying access to medical treatment
  • Denying recommended medical treatment
  • Not protecting the child from hazards
  • Not providing safe adequate caregivers for the child
  • Isolating the child
  • Not providing affection or emotional support, ignores child’s attempt at affection
  • Exposing the child to domestic abuse
  • Exposing the child to substance abuse
  • Failing to enrol the child in school
  • Failing to maintain attendance in educational setting
  • Failing to follow through with educational needs/plans
  • Permitting chronic absenteeism from school
  • Has little involvement in the child’s life, is not interested in child’s daily life
  • Fails to keep appointments for the child
  • Unresponsive when approached about concerns for the child
  • Displays ignoring and rejecting behaviour towards the child
  • Indicates that the child was unwanted, unplanned, and is still unwanted
  • Indicates that the child is hard to care for
  • Overwhelmed with own problems
  • Put own needs ahead of child’s
  • Put own plans ahead of child’s
  • Has a chaotic life with no evidence of stability or routine
  • Brings child early and picks up late
  • Openly states they wish they didn’t have the child

(“Child Abuse and Neglect,” n.d.; Crosson-Tower, 2020; Durrant et al., 2006; Fallon et al., 2020; Jonson-Reid & Drake, 2018; Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, 2022; Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012; Rimer & Prager, 2016; Sedlak et al., 2010; Toronto Children’s Aid Society, n.d.; Tufford, 2020).


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Child Maltreatment: An Introductory Guide With Case Studies Copyright © 2023 by Susan Loosley and Jen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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