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Is New York Seeing a Rise in Child Neglect?

Unfortunately, many children suffer from neglect, in New York, and in other areas. Of course, there are different levels of neglect and some forms of neglect are obvious while others are not as easy to recognize. With the pandemic, families were stressed beyond the breaking point, and there is a real concern that children have been suffering fallout from it in the form of neglect.

What is Neglect?

The definition of neglect can be rather wide-sweeping. While everyone agrees that children need to be fed, clothed, have proper shelter, and need emotional support, there are some people that do take the definition to the extreme. Are you neglectful if you do not follow the ADHA recommendation about replacing your child’s toothbrush every three to four months? Not by most standards, but if you do not take your child to the dentist for regular checkups, that can be defined as neglect.

There are no laws that require that you follow ADHA guidelines for replacing toothbrushes, even though according to the ADHA, old toothbrushes are harbingers for bacteria that can cause infection, and they cite that about 75% of Americans use toothbrushes after the safe point. However, there are laws that require that you get your child dental care and other health care. Some people would say if you are not providing your child with the proper tools then you are neglectful.

From 2010 to 2015, neglect was cited as the top cause of children being removed from their homes in Kentucky. About 68.6% of the home removal cases were attributed not to abuse but to neglect. However, there is a thin line between abuse and neglect. Just because a parent is not leaving physical scars it does not mean the child is not being scarred.

There are many forms of neglect, ranging from education to medical care, to lack of supervision.

What Promotes Neglect?

In many cases of children being neglected, the problem is systemic. Parents that are struggling financially or emotionally themselves can find it difficult to care for their children. Poverty promotes a form of unintentional neglect. If the parents are struggling to buy food, pay the light bill, or maintain shelter, then the children are being neglected.

Stress is a huge factor in neglect cases. About 42%-45% of marriages (the first time around) end with a divorce. The stress of failed relationships, shelter and food uncertainty and other life problems can promote the neglect of children.

Is Neglect On the Rise?

Cases of neglect of children decreased in the early months of the pandemic shutdowns in NYC. Fewer cases were being reported, however, that trend did not remain. According to a recent study, experts found that upwards of 6,000 cases of neglect were never investigated during the pandemic shutdown.

Experts also agree that in times of crisis and directly following a crisis, children are most at risk of being neglected. The most common form of recent neglect cases being reported are children left unattended. In NYS there is no specified legal “age” when a child can be left home alone. However, good judgment on the parents’ part is necessary.

During the pandemic, many parents were faced with very hard choices. Children were sent home from school, and many parents had to continue to leave the home to work. Some parents had to leave their children unattended to keep their job.

Overall, because of the pandemic, it does seem as if children have been neglected more, but hard facts and figures will not be out for a while. There are estimates that put the lifetime economic cost for the uptick in child neglect cases in the billions of dollars.

On the Upside

Before a child can be removed from a home because of allegations of neglect, the parents are given an opportunity to correct their actions. New York State has support programs in place for parents that are struggling to care for their children. You can learn more by reaching out to a local ACS agency, seeking help through school counseling services, or one of the many community action programs in NYS.