Consider this scenario: You’re a divorced dad who gets one night a week and every other weekend with your small son. Your ex has a new boyfriend, a fact that didn’t really concern you until your child started showing some serious behavioral and physical changes, like weight loss, increased appetite, and sores that keep reappearing. If you’re concerned, you may have good reason to be.
Federal law defines child abuse and neglect as, at the very least, an action or omission on the part of a parent or other caretaker that:
- Creates an imminent risk of serious harm
- Results in serious emotional or physical harm
- Results in death
- Enables the child to be sexually abused or exploited
Kids don’t always talk about what is happening to them, either because they are afraid of further abuse, want to protect the abuser, or simply believe that no one will listen to them. That’s why as parents and/or adults who work with children, it is important to watch for red flags like the five listed below:
Flag No. 1: Failure to Thrive
This is a general term that addresses a child’s failure to gain an age-appropriate amount of height or weight. Slower development may also include inability to master the skills and abilities already demonstrated by their peers, such as talking and socializing.
Flag No. 2: Poor Hygiene
Matted hair, dirty skin, and prevalent body odor are all signs that your child’s physical needs are not being attended to at home. If he says that Mom or Dad never makes him take baths, you have to wonder why.
Flag No. 3: Malnutrition
Malnourished children are easy to spot. They are thin in a way that has nothing to do with high energy levels, and go to great lengths to steal or hoard food. If your son has a huge appetite and his pockets and backpack are loaded with his favorite foods prior to leaving your home, it’s a sign that he’s not getting much nutrition at his other home.
Flag No. 4: Frequent Illness
Neglected children are often sick because they aren’t eating enough at home, their clothing may be inappropriate for the season, and any physical or medical problems are being ignored by the primary caregiver. If a child complains of constant fatigue and is often late from school due to illness, investigate further.
Flag No. 5: Comments About Being Alone
Sometimes a child will confirm your suspicions by saying that no one is ever home to care for them and/or they are left unsupervised for long periods of time. If your son says that your ex is out every night with her new boyfriend while he puts himself to bed, he might be living under the wrong roof.
New York teachers, daycare staff, and other professional care providers who suspect child neglect can call the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, which will notify Child Protective Services. If you are a parent who wants to protect your child by revisiting a custody order, contact the Levoritz Law Firm.
Attorneys Yonatan Levoritz, Karolina Krasnyanskaya, Evgen Tereshchenkov, and Miechia Gulley have years of experience advocating for parents who want to remove their children from a detrimental custody situation. We can also defend you if you are the victim of false allegations of child neglect. In either case, bringing about the best outcome for your children will be our top priority.