neglected child | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Juvenile Justice

In the juvenile justice context, a neglected child is a child who has not received proper care, supervision, or support from their parent or guardian.

When we talk about a neglected child, we mean a kid who isn’t receiving the care they need. After all, all children deserve a safe, loving environment where they can grow and learn. But, sadly, not every child gets this. This can occur when a parent or caregiver fails to provide for a child’s basic needs, like food, clothing, education, or medical care. Also, it can include failure to provide emotional support or supervision.

Types of Child Neglect

Let’s look at some specific types of neglect. Each one can hurt a child in different ways.

Physical:  This occurs when a child’s physical needs aren’t met. It could mean not getting enough food or not having a safe place to live.

Educational: This occurs if a juvenile isn’t sent to school or provided with the right learning support at home.

Emotional:  This occurs when a child’s emotional needs are ignored. It could mean not getting love, support, or attention from caregivers.

Medical:  This happens when a child doesn’t get the necessary medical or mental health treatment.

The Role of Criminal Justice in Addressing Child Neglect

So, what does child neglect have to do with criminal justice? A lot, actually. In the United States, child neglect is considered a form of child abuse. If a parent or caregiver is found guilty of neglect, they can face legal consequences.

Not only do law enforcement agencies investigate reports of child neglect, but courts also play a key role. They can remove children from harmful situations and place them in safer environments.

After that, social services often step in. They can provide resources like counseling and education to help children recover. They can also support families to prevent neglect from happening in the first place.

The Long-Term Impact of Child Neglect

Neglect can cause serious harm to a child. They might have trouble in school or develop physical or mental health problems. Additionally, they might struggle to form healthy relationships as they get older.

But it’s important to remember that these outcomes aren’t set in stone. With the right help, neglected children can recover and lead happy, healthy lives.

Prevention of Child Neglect

Preventing child neglect is a big job, and everyone has a part to play. Educators, doctors, and community members can keep an eye out for signs of neglect. If they see something worrying, they can report it to local authorities.

Meanwhile, policymakers can create laws and programs to support families in need. These initiatives can provide things like affordable housing, food assistance, and mental health services.


All in all, child neglect is a serious issue that affects many children worldwide. It’s something that we all need to work together to prevent. By understanding what neglect is and how it harms children, we can be part of the solution. Remember, every child deserves a safe, supportive environment where they can thrive.

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Last Modified: 06/30/2023


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