Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child or youth’s basic needs. Neglect comes in many forms, including physical, medical, educational, and emotional neglect.

Physical neglect

Failure to provide for a child or youth's basic needs, such as nutrition, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and medical care. Physical neglect may also involve inadequate supervision of a child or youth and other forms of reckless disregard of the child or youth's safety and welfare.

  • Abandonment:  The desertion of a child or youth without arranging reasonable care or supervision.
  • Expulsion:  The blatant refusal of custody, such as the permanent or indefinite expulsion of a child or youth from the home, without adequately arranging for care by others or the refusal to accept a child or youth who has returned after running away.
  • Shuttling:  When a child or youth is repeatedly left in the custody of others for days or weeks at a time, possibly due to the unwillingness of the parent or the caregiver to maintain custody.
  • Nutritional neglect:  When a child or youth is undernourished or is repeatedly hungry for long periods of time, which can sometimes be evidenced by poor growth. Nutritional neglect often is included in the category of “other physical neglect.”
  • Clothing neglect:  When a child or youth lacks appropriate clothing, such as not having appropriately warm clothes or shoes in the winter.
  • Other physical neglect:  Includes inadequate hygiene and forms of reckless disregard for the child or youth’s safety and welfare (e.g., driving while intoxicated with the child, leaving a young child in a car unattended).

Medical neglect

Failure to seek medical or dental treatment or to comply with medical advice for a health problem or condition that, if left untreated, could become severe enough to represent a danger to the child or youth.

  • Denial of health care:  the failure to provide or to allow needed care as recommended by a competent health care professional for a physical injury, illness, medical condition, or impairment.
  • Delay in health care:  the failure to seek timely and appropriate medical care for a serious health problem that any reasonable person would have recognized as needing professional medical attention. Examples of a delay in health care include not getting appropriate preventive medical or dental care for a child or youth, not obtaining care for a sick child or youth, or not following medical recommendations. Not seeking adequate mental health care also falls under this category. A lack or delay in health care may occur because the family does not have health insurance. 

Educational neglect

Involves the failure of a parent or caregiver to enroll a child or youth of mandatory school age in school or provide appropriate homeschooling or needed special education training, thus allowing the child or youth to engage in chronic truancy.

  • Permitted, chronic truancy:  permitting habitual absenteeism from school averaging at least five days a month if the parent or guardian is informed of the problem and does not attempt to intervene.
  • Failure to enroll or other truancy:  failing to homeschool, to register, or to enroll a child of mandatory school age, causing the child or youth to miss at least one month of school without valid reasons.
  • Inattention to special education needs:  refusing to allow or failing to obtain recommended remedial education services or neglecting to obtain or follow through with treatment for a child’s diagnosed learning disorder or other special education need without reasonable cause.

Signs and Behaviors of the Child or Youth

  • Wears soiled clothing or clothing that is significantly too small or large or is often in need of repair
  • Seems inadequately dressed for the weather
  • Always seems to be hungry; hoards, steals, or begs for food or comes to school with little food
  • Often appears tired with little energy
  • Frequently reports caring for younger siblings
  • Demonstrates poor hygiene, smells of urine or feces, or has dirty or decaying teeth
  • Seems emaciated or has a distended stomach (indicative of malnutrition)
  • Has unattended medical or dental problems, such as infected sores
  • States that there is no one at home to provide care

Signs and Behaviors of the Parent or Caretaker

  • Appears to be indifferent to the child or youth
  • Seems apathetic or depressed
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
  • Abuses alcohol or drugs
  • Denies the existence of or blames the child for the child’s problems in school or at home
  • Sees the child or youth as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Looks to the child or youth primarily for care, attention, or satisfaction of emotional needs
If not you, then who?
Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.