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In a perfect world, no child would be neglected or abused. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and the unsettling reality is that there are children out there that are not getting taken care of as they should.

Recognizing the signs of neglect is perhaps the most important way to give a voice to a child that otherwise couldn’t get help. And while any child is susceptible to neglect, some are far more vulnerable to it than others. If you are around a child and you suspect neglect or abuse, you must report that to the proper person and do whatever it is within your power to help them.

According to the most notable sources, these are the signs of neglect that should never be ignored.

1. Frequent absence from school.

While an absence here and there is one thing, if a child is regularly going without education (either homeschooling or regular schooling) then there may be another issue going on. It could be that the parents aren’t supervising or making sure that their education is attended to.

2. Expressions of hunger.

Children are normally hungry, so when I say expressions of hunger, I mean real hunger. When a child is begging for anything they can eat, and indicating to adults that they are hungry and aren’t being fed at home, they are likely not having their nourishment needs met at home.

3. Illnesses and injuries left untreated.

A neglected child may often be sick or come down with illnesses, but never go to the doctor. Or, they may have cuts or other injuries that are never tended to. This is a major red flag.

4. Poor hygiene.

Another indicator of neglect is poor hygiene. Neglected children may not bathe regularly, and have dirt or grime on their skin. Or their teeth may not be brushed, and their hair left unkempt.

5. Consistent lack of supervision.

If you notice that a child doesn’t have a curfew or any consistent supervision, this is a sign of neglect. They may come to school tired because they didn’t get to bed at a proper time. After all, no one enforces any type of routine. Additionally, they miss school altogether or end up hanging out with the wrong people and doing the wrong things.

6. Inappropriate clothing for the weather.

When a child is properly cared for, their parents will ensure that they have a sweater or coat and that they aren’t wearing jeans in the middle of winter. Conversely, they will assure that they aren’t wearing a coat and jeans when it’s blistering hot outside. Inappropriate clothing for the weather is a tell-tell sign.

7. Dirty clothes.

If you notice a child that wears the same dirty clothes regularly, this too could be a sign of neglect. They may have a smell, or simply have stains and dirt on their clothes, or if you see them regularly enough, you will likely realize they are wearing the same articles each day.

8. Behavioral problems.

Children who are neglected often display behavioral problems. They may act out through aggression, or be hyperactive. Other behavioral problems could include yelling or simply refusing to listen.

9. Low self-esteem.

Another sad sign of neglect is low self-esteem. When children have parents around to tend to their needs, emotional and otherwise, they have a healthier way of viewing themselves. When they are neglected, on the other hand, their emotional needs are often overlooked as well.

10. Lack of medical care.

Children who don’t have normal dental check-ups, or glasses if they need them, or who have unattended health problems do maybe being neglected. If you notice that a child is going without proper medical care, it may be time to step up and say something to someone.

11. Ill-fitting clothing.

Children who are neglected will often have clothes or shoes that do not fit them properly. If you notice that a child is wearing pants that are too small, a shirt that is too small, or shoes that don’t fit right, it’s likely a situation of neglect.

12. Consistently underweight.

And because neglected children aren’t always fed properly, they may display signs of this through skin rashes or weight problems (being underweight.) They might also lack muscle tone or be prone to infections.

If you notice a neglected child, remain calm. If you lose your cool and act out of sorts about the situation, the child may lose faith in you or feel a lack of trust in you. Explain gently to them that they are not to blame for what is happening, and do NOT interrogate them or ask a million questions. Express empathy, and do not put words in their mouth. If you feel like their safety is at risk, contact professionals either at their school or at your local authorities.