Signs of Child Neglect and How to Report Child Neglect

Learn child neglect signs and how to report child neglect. If signs of child neglect are seen, a child neglect report should be filed with authorities.

In reporting of child neglect, victims almost never reach out themselves. Instead, it's up to others to protect a child from a neglectful situation. And while child neglect, unfortunately, affects more than half-a-million children per year, reporting child neglect is easy. Many states require some people to report suspected child neglect by law and, in some states, this includes all adults.

Signs of Child Neglect

Child neglect is the most common form of child abuse. Signs of child neglect can be seen in the child and in their caregiver. An outsider may see one sign and think nothing of it, but when several of these signs of child neglect are taken together, a picture starts to form.

Signs of child neglect may be seen:

  • Physically – external to the child, such as the clothes they wear
  • Medically – care for a child's medical or mental health
  • Educationally – lack of education for the child or a lack of attention to any special needs they may have
  • Emotionally – in the relationship between the caregiver and child

Child neglect may be seen in children who:12

  • Are often absent from school, are not attending school, drop out of school
  • Are developmentally delayed
  • Begs for or steals food and money
  • Is constantly hungry/nutrient deficient
  • Lacks needed medical care such as immunizations, glasses or dental work
  • Is dirty with body odor
  • Doesn't have weather-appropriate clothing
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • Engages in self-harming or self-destructive behavior
  • Are depressed
  • Have poor impulse control
  • Demand constant attention and affection
  • Regularly show fatigue, fall asleep in class
  • Take over an adult caring role of the parent
  • Lack trust in others, is unpredictable
  • Plan only for the moment

And, sometimes, the most obvious sign of child neglect is the child admitting that there is no one at home to care for them or that they don't know where their caregiver is. It is unlikely the child will identify this as neglect, but adults should.

Child neglect may be seen when parents:

  • Are indifferent to their child
  • Seem apathetic or depressed
  • Act in a strange or irrational way
  • Abuse alcohol or other drugs

Signs of child neglect should always be reported so they can properly be assessed by professionals, as many circumstances may explain the witnessed symptoms.

How to Report Child Neglect

Reporting child neglect can be done in the same ways as reporting child abuse. Report child neglect to:

  • The non-emergency number of local law enforcement
  • Child Protective Services
  • The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453) – all calls are anonymous

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 17). Signs of Child Neglect and How to Report Child Neglect, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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