Understanding child neglect

CFCA Paper No. 20 – April 2014

Where to now?

This paper has demonstrated that neglect is a complex problem. Defining, measuring, and responding to neglect all pose problems yet to be resolved. While much of the focus of neglect rests on parents, the problem is often much bigger and cannot be completely isolated from societal issues such as poverty and access to resources that support and empower families to care for their children. The public health model of the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020 goes some way to addressing issues associated with neglect, and recognises that formal child protection systems cannot respond to all children and families in need of support. Effective Child Aware Approaches, designed to improve adult services awareness and response to child maltreatment, may provide additional support and impetus for change that is needed to address neglect.6

There is no easy or quick response to child neglect. Policies and strategies address some risk indicators at the individual child and family level and provide support for those families, but acting at the individual level will not result in long-term sustainable changes for these families. Change will also have to occur at the societal level to make a real difference. For real change to occur, community and society have to take the view that neglect isn't simply the responsibility of child protection departments.