What Are the Signs of Child Neglect and Its Effects on Children?

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It takes a village to raise a child; when the village is no longer functional, child neglect is all too often the consequence.

Five year old Jeffrey Baldwin was found dead in the basement of his grandmother's home on November 30, 2002.He was all skin and bones, weighing no more than 19 pounds.

Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto who studied the autopsy photos of the boy claimed there was no doubt that Jeffrey succumbed to the complications of infection and pneumonia caused by long-term malnutrition, possibly malnutrition that had taken place for several years before his actual death.

In fact, records indicate that Jeffrey's last visit to a physician took place four years ago, when he was one year of age and weighed 22 pounds.

What happened to Jeffrey Baldwin? How did he become a case of child neglect especially when there were at least six adults and five children living in the same house?

How did he become one of the many invisible children who die from inexcusable neglect under the hands of guardians responsible for their welfare and well-being?

Jeffrey was the Unfortunate Victim of Child Neglect

CBC News claims that Jeffrey Baldwin was the unfortunate victim of troubled parents; he was also the victim of the Catholic Children's Aid Society that took him away from his troubled parents and placed him in the care of his grandmother Elva Bottineau and partner Norman Kidman, both with a history of child abuse offenses

Bottineau's adult son also revealed the horrific abuse he and his sister suffered when they were children, under the care of their mother and partner.

The nagging question remains, however: How could the many adults and children living in the same house not recognize that Jeffrey was suffering from child neglect?

What are the Signs of Child Neglect?

While physical abuse leaves shocking scars and broken bones, the signs of child neglect are much more subtle. The following are a list of common signs that suggest children are being neglected.

The child is unkempt, has a strong body odor and matted hair.

The child has rotting teeth and chronic bad breath.

The child wears clothes that are ill-fitting, filthy and inappropriate for the weather conditions ( either over dressed or under dressed).

The child is often forgotten or unsupervised.

The child misses a lot of school.

The child is allowed to play in unsafe environments; adults often have no idea where he is and do not seem to care.

The child is withdrawn and depressed.

The child is often sleepy or tired.

The child is unusually small for his age.

The child looks for good in the garbage or steals food from others.

The child has difficulty learning.

What are the Effects of Child Abuse?

According to Arthur Becker-Weidman Ph.D of the Center for Family Development in Williamsville, New York, child neglect has profound effects on a child's mental and emotional development. In fact, clear links exist between neglect(and abuse) and later psychological and behavior problems.Studies also show a connection between childhood trauma and adult health.

Neglect impacts early brain development. Healthy cognitive and emotional functioning in children requires the integration of the right and left hemispheres of the brain by the corpus callosum.

This integration allows synaptic connections to be made in the developing brain - a situation that is crucial for growth and learning.

It is not surprising, then, that neglected and abused children have smaller corpus callosum and weaker integration of brain hemispheres than non-abused children.

The result is the child`s vulnerability to poor judgment, weak cause and effect thinking, poor emotional control, inability to read emotions in others as well as an inability to voice the his or her own emotions.

In the same way, Dr.Jack P. Shonkoff, pediatrician, professor and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University states that building strong, stable protective relationships is crucial if we want children with healthy brains and bodies.

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The consequences of neglect are dire because neglect by too busy or too depressed parents has serious consequences on a baby's brain development.

Neglect intensifies toxic stress - the kind that raises stress chemicals long enough to wreak long-term damage; continued toxic stress takes a tremendous toll on the baby's brain because 85% of brain development happens in the first three years of life.

In an article in the London Free Press, journalist Brian Daly states that neglect is the most common form of child mistreatment in Canada; moreover, the physical trauma of neglect can be even more devastating than sexual abuse.

The 2008 Canadian Incidence Study on Child Abuse and Neglect reveals that neglected children suffer a vareity of issues, including academic problems ( 23%), depression (19%) and aggression (15%).

Daly cite statistics that show 34% of all youth protection investigations to be cases of neglect.

Disclaimer: The above information is meant only to inform and should never displace professional consultation.

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