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In a perfect world, no child would ever be abused or neglected. Unfortunately, though, we do not live in a perfect world.

One of the most heart-breaking situations in the world is when you realize that a child is being abused or neglected. Not only is it heart-breaking, but it can be a difficult situation to navigate.

If you are sensing that a child that is in your life is being neglected or abused, and you want to be sure, I have listed the signs below. While most people don’t always think of neglect as abuse, it is very much abuse. And the sooner the neglect is stopped, the better chance the child has of overcoming it. I will also add some information about reporting the abuse after the signs.

1. Their clothes are ill-fitting & tattered.

A child who is being neglected will wear clothes that do not fit properly or that are tattered and have holes in them. You may notice their shoes don’t fit properly. And you may notice that their shoes and clothes aren’t appropriate for the weather.

2. They are clingy and anxious.

Pay attention to how the child acts. If they seem desperate for attention and cling to any adult that will pay them attention, this may be a sign that they are being neglected. Alone, this sign could mean many things, but in combination with other signs and a gut feeling – listen to it.

3. The child has mentioned a lack of adult supervision.

You have heard the child say that they lack adult supervision at home. They claim they are left for long periods, and their claims make sense because they seem to be able to do whatever they want.

4. The parent shows little concern for the child.

When you have seen the parent, they show very little regard for the child. For example, if you are a teacher, and you have told them that they are struggling in school and they simply don’t care, or you bring up that you noticed their clothes don’t fit right they brush it off, something is wrong.

5. They are frequently absent from school/ child care.

If a child is enrolled in school and is constantly missing days because their parent forgets to bring them, or isn’t present at all, this is a sign of neglect. A missing day from time to time is one thing, but when they are flunking out because no one is taking them, this is a bad sign.

6. They are behind on medical care (severely.)

Pay attention to things like medical care going unprovided. Some neglected children may have rotten teeth, or bad vision but no glasses. They may have cuts/scrapes that have not been cleaned and bandaged.

7. They beg for food.

Neglected children don’t always get the proper nutrition at home. In turn, when they are around anyone that might feed them, they will beg for food. Other signs will be them showing signs of malnutrition, either being underweight or having discoloration in their skin.

8. They are constantly dirty.

While some kids just don’t like baths, if you notice that their clothes are dirty, they haven’t taken a bath in a long time and their clothes are ill-fitting this could most definitely be a combination that shows neglect.

9. They claim to be abused or neglected.

Listen to a child that claims they are being abused. If they are telling you that something is wrong, and you brush it off and ignore them, you are failing them. Yes, they might not be telling the truth, but it’s far more likely that they are than it is that they are lying. Report their claims immediately to someone who can help.

10. There is a major behavior change.

Another sign to pay attention to is behavior changes. An abused or neglected child will have drastic behavior changes. They might completely quit caring about school, stop showing up for school, become aggressive, or become clingy out of nowhere. These shifts need to be noted.

11. Failure to thrive.

When a child has a failure to thrive, it means that they are not at the right weight/ height, and they are struggling in comparison to another child. A failure to thrive is based on pediatric age and is caused by low caloric intake and other neglect.

12. Developmental lag.

Developmental lags are when a child is missing major milestones. For example, if you notice a 5-year-old who is still using the bathroom on themselves because they haven’t been properly potty-trained, this is a sign of neglect. Or a 6-year-old who can barely speak properly. These are all signs of developmental lags.

If you notice a child is being neglected, you need to report it immediately. Almost all local child protective services have a 24-hour hotline for you to contact. You may hesitate to make the call, fearing that you could be wrong. But it’s better to make the phone call and be wrong than to not make it and be right.