Physical Neglect

Physical Neglect—California Penal Code Section 11165.2

Physical neglect is defined as negligent treatment or the maltreatment of child by a person responsible for the child’s welfare, including both acts and/or omission of care. 

General Neglect

General neglect is the unwillingness of the parent or caretaker to provide for adequate basic needs, where there is no physical injury or injury is not likely to occur for example:  

The failure to provide adequate: 

  • Food 
  • Clothing 
  • Supervision 
  • Medical, dental or psychiatric care 

Severe Neglect

Severe neglect is the unwillingness of the parent or caretaker to provide for adequate basic needs, where there is physical injury or injury is likely to occur, such as: 

  • Malnutrition 
  • Non-organic failure to thrive 
  • Chronic neglect 
  • Abandonment 
  • Willful endangerment 
  • Refusal to seek medical care for serious conditions 

Physical Neglect—Federal Guidelines

  • Neglect can by physical, educational, or emotional. 
  • Physical - refusal of or delay in seeking health care 
  • Educational - chronic truancy, failure to enroll in school, failure to attend to special educational needs. 
  • Emotional - inattention to the child’s need for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spousal abuse in the presence of the child, permission to use drugs or alcohol by the child 
  • Assessment of child neglect needs consideration for cultural values and standards of care as well as failure to provide may be related to poverty. 

Examples of Physical Neglect

Children not being fed:

  • No food available 
  • Food intentionally withheld 
  • Children complain of hunger 
  • Children beg or steal food 

Lack of adequate shelter: 

  • Hazardous conditions (exposed wiring, broken glass) 
  • Unsanitary conditions (garbage, spoiled food, excrement) 
  • Lack of plumbing or other utilities 
  • Homelessness where there are significant risk factors that place the child in imminent danger 

Lack of Supervision 

  • Children left in the care of children who are unable to care for them 
  • Abandonment 
  • Any child left without supervision who is at risk due to age, environmental risks or personal limitation, especially those under age 8 
  • Truancy issues should be referred to the school district 

Lack of Adequate Clothing/Personal Hygiene 

  • Clothing inadequate or inappropriate for weather 
  • Persistent skin disorders or severe diaper rash due to improper hygiene 

Lack of Medical or Dental Care 

  • Untreated injuries 
  • Failure to comply with medical treatment, posing a risk to the child’s health 
  • Chronic lice with scabbing or secondary infection 
  • Failure to thrive 
  • Lack of attention to serious dental problems 

Failure to Protect 

  • Failure of parent or caretaker to protect child from known situations of child abuse in any of its forms 

Behavioral Indicators of Physical Neglect 

  • Listlessness 
  • Hunger 
  • Hoards food 
  • Depression 
  • Apathy 
  • Anti-social 
  • Infantile behavior 
  • Anger 
  • Fatigue 
  • Delayed developmentally 
  • Poor growth pattern or obesity 
  • Extremes in behavior