1. The basic physical or psychological needs of the child or young person are not being met (neglect)
Failure to meet basic physical or psychological needs, or neglect, is the continued failure to provide a child with the basic things he or she needs for his or her proper growth and development, such as food, clothing, shelter, and adequate supervision.
Indicators of failure to meet basic physical and psychological needs
In children and young people:
- Poor standards of hygiene leading to social isolation
- Scavenging or stealing food
- Being focused on basic survival
- Loss of ‘skin bloom’
- Poor hair texture
- Delay in developmental milestones
- Non-organic failure to thrive
- Extended stays at school, public places, others’ homes
- Extreme longing for adult affection
- A flat and superficial way of relating, lacking a sense of genuine interaction
- Self-comforting behaviour eg rocking, sucking
- Anxiety about being dropped or abandoned.
In young people:
- Staying at the homes of friends and acquaintances for prolonged periods, rather than at home
- Resources are not provided which would allow the young person to care for himself or herself, e.g. access to washing or food.
In parents or caregivers:
- Failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, hygienic home conditions or leaving the child or young person inappropriately without supervision.
- Inability to respond emotionally to a child or young person
- Child or young person left alone for long periods
- Depriving or withholding physical contact or stimulation for prolonged periods
- Failure to provide psychological nurturing
- One child or young person treated differently or scapegoated
- Absence of social support from relatives, other adults or social networks.
Indicators taken from NSW Interagency Guidelines for Child Protection Intervention, 2000
Of course, a child’s age will affect our response to a parent or caregiver’s failure to meet the child’s basic physical or psychological needs. For instance, babies and very young children are totally dependent on adults to meet their physical and psychological needs. They are smaller and so more physically vulnerable to neglect, are not able to talk about what is happening to them, and are less ‘visible’ in the community than children who are at school
So what does affect a parent or caregiver’s ability to meet a child’s physical and psychological needs?
Does how wealthy the parents are impact?
- Poverty itself doesn’t mean that children and young people are at risk of harm. However, limited financial resources can mean increased stress and limited available services to assist the parents or caregivers, and this may lead to risk of harm
Does mental illness?
- Having a mental illness like depression can result in a parent or caregiver being unable to meet the needs of their child.
What about when both parents work?
- Having 2 working parents doesn’t automatically mean a child is going to be neglected. However, if for example both parents work long hours in stressful jobs , they may not be emotionally and physically available to their children and there is a risk of harm
Or if the parent or caregiver have a drug or alcohol problem?
- The effects of drug or alcohol abuse may mean the parent is physically unable to meet a child’s needs, or they may be focused on the drug rather than the child