What is Neglect?

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child neglect and abuse as: “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”


•Physical—Not providing basic needs, including appropriate nutrition, shelter, hygiene, and clothing.

•Medical and dental—Delaying or denying recommended health or dental care for a child.

•Educational—Failure to enroll a child in school, or homeschool a child. Not addressing special education needs. Allowing chronic absenteeism from school.

•Emotional—To ignore, or be emotionally unresponsive. Also, to deny adequate access to mental health care.


•Leaving a child unsupervised (based on length of time and the child’s   age/maturity) and not providing appropriate caregivers.

•Engaging in harmful behavior (including domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse) in a child’s presence.

•Not protecting a child from safety hazards (including hazards in the home).

To find each state’s neglect laws visit: childwelfare.gov/topics/ systemwide/laws-policies/state/

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