What Counts as Neglect?
For some it may not be new to you, for your child to return from a stay with your ex, in less than perfect condition.
Maybe their hair is a mess, and a few things missing like their socks or sandals. They haven’t brushed their teeth the entire weekend that they were gone. Questions flood your mind, “Is this the same underwear they left in?” “Do they know how important hygiene is?” “What other things did they neglect?”
Frustration rises in you, and you seek to hold someone accountable. You call them and ask them about this disarray and they are completely indifferent to your claims. With this unsatisfactory reaction, you feel justified in seeking a different, more legal opinion to enforce change.
In this article, you will learn about neglect that calls for immediate action, neglectful patterns, and the next steps to take to make change happen.
How Do I Know It Is Time to Call C.P.S?
Knowing when to intervene, and when to give the benefit of the doubt can be a difficult decision to make. To determine if intervention is necessary, it is good to become knowledgeable about the process of legal action, and what the law views as neglect.
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a governmental agency which has been established in many states in the U.S., and is designed to respond to child protection issues, which includes reports of child abuse or neglect. Seeking the best possible outcome for the child’s safety, permanence, and family well-being.
Neglect is often categorized as a vague form of abuse that can be hard to substantiate. Unless there is incidental proof, a pattern must be documented over time to illicit a case.
Incidences that call for immediate action include but are not limited to:
- DUI’s cited with a child in the vehicle,
- hospitalization of a child for physical abuse,
- untreated medical issues,
- newborns born with narcotics addictions,
- domestic violence police reports,
- reports from the school of the child not eating,
- the parent refusing to cooperate.
These incidences seem more obvious to decent citizens. However, in most cases neglect is undetectable.
What Can I Do When the Signs Of Neglect Aren’t Obvious?
Typically, the first time neglect is reported there is no immediate action taken. This can seem very frustrating and may cause you to lose faith in the system. But generally this is due to a lack of knowledge as to how to system is designed to work.
As defined in the article, “Child Neglect; A guide for prevention, assessment, and intervention” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Neglect involves consideration of “incidents” of neglect versus a pattern of behavior that indicates neglect.”
Susan J. Zuravin, Ph.D. at the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work, states “If some behaviors occur in a “Chronic Pattern” they should be considered neglectful.” Meaning most reports to the Child Protective Services, will be the start of proving through documentation of behaviors that show an accumulation of neglect rather than one instance.
This may seem slow moving and disconcerting to those who regularly send their child off to their ex/neglectful parent, or who want to help a child. However, this case building also prevents unintentional accidents from harming a parent’s connection with the child.
What Signs Should I Look for If I Suspect That My Child Is Being Neglected?
A few indicators that there may be a cause to document neglect;
- Comes home from a stay with your ex wearing soiled clothing or clothing that is significantly too small or large or is often in need of repair;
- Seems inadequately dressed for the weather;
- Always seems to be hungry; hoards, steals, or begs for food;
- Often appears listless and tired with little energy after returning;
- Frequently reports of caring for younger siblings;
- Demonstrates poor hygiene, smells of urine or feces, or has dirty teeth;
- Seems emaciated or has a distended stomach (indicative of malnutrition over a period of time such as a summer away);
- Has unattended medical or dental problems, such as broken bone;
- States that there is no one at [Dads/Moms] to provide care.
It’s important to take the time to document situations you feel will help your case. Keep records, take photos, and make notes of any situations relating to neglect. This may seem like a tedious process, however, it can be beneficial to your child and your case down the road.
Should I Report Neglect When It Seems Like Nothing Will Be Done About It?
This process can be difficult, particularly if you are concerned about jeopardizing the civil relationship you have with your ex. Although, it may seem that the initial report just creates conflict at first, try to remember the first report is what begins to show a pattern and is the first step towards helping a child that is truly being neglected.
If you are considered a mandatory reporter, there may be legal consequences for not reporting. Plus, this fail safe system will give light to all the information regarding the parenting situation and potentially reveal some resources to the parent to ensure the child is having his immediate needs met. This is especially helpful in cases of poverty, mental disability, and when further education is needed.
If you feel that someone you love has become a party to neglect, consult one of our knowledgeable attorneys. At Burton Law, we understand the importance of the well-being of your child. Call to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.