Child Neglect Just as Dangerous, Damaging as Child Abuse

Written by LIFT Alliance

Texas bears the unfortunate distinction in leading the nation in reported cases of child abuse.  Last year, the Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services reported 74,258 cases in Texas. Here’s the breakdown of those cases by type of abuse:

  • 48,999 Neglectful Supervision
  • 11,789 Physical Abuse
  • 5,931 Sexual Abuse
  • 4,679 Physical Neglect
  • 1,583 Medical Neglect
  • 640 Refusal to Assume Parental Responsibilities
  • 478 Emotional Abuse
  • 159 Abandonment

It’s tempting to believe that the nearly 50,000 children who were subject to neglectful supervision are somehow better off than the nearly 12,000 who were physically abused. But in fact, neglect can be a particularly dangerous and damaging form of child abuse. It may not leave black eyes or broken bones, but the effects are still lasting and can be severe.

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, more than 42 percent of child maltreatment deaths in the U.S. in 2005 occurred as a result of neglect alone. For the children who survive, the picture is far from rosy: the physical consequences of neglect can include incomplete brain development due to malnutrition and other medical issues, low self-esteem, PTSD, eating disorders, suicide attempts, cognitive/learning disabilities, juvenile delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, and criminal or abusive behavior. (Source:

Neglected children are deprived of love, attention, stimulation, and safety. Their abuse may not be visible, but it’s very real. Here’s what to look for in a child who’s being neglected:

  • Is frequently absent from school
  • Begs or steals food or money
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • States that there is no one at home to provide care

It will take all of us working together to stop the epidemic of child abuse and neglect in Texas and across the country.  Knowing the signs and knowing what to do about them are an important first step.