Child neglect involves a failure to act that harms a child. This may consist of a single incident, but more often it develops as a pattern over time. Neglect may take physical and emotional forms, but generally it involves failing to provide the care and supervision needed to preserve the well-being of a child. For example, neglect may occur when a child does not receive proper food and shelter, lacks adequate supervision, or is left in the care of a person who is unqualified to care for the child. Parents and other family members may bear responsibility for child neglect, but sometimes daycares and other entities that are entrusted with children may be at fault.
Special Needs Children
Failing to meet the particular needs of a special needs child constitutes child neglect, even if their needs are different from those of other children.
Signs of Child Neglect
Some red flags that indicate that a child may be suffering from neglect include:
Malnutrition, inadequate body mass index, stunted growth, or food hoarding habits
Dirty or poorly-fitted clothing, or clothing that is not appropriate for the season
Poor hygiene or lack of grooming
Excessive fatigue or lack of energy
Inadequate medical care, such as allowing injuries or illnesses to go untreated
Unexplained absences from school or a failure to keep up with schoolwork
Developmental delays or speech problems
One occasion on which a child exhibits one of these signs may not by itself indicate neglect. For example, there might be many reasons why a child seems unusually hungry or sleepy one day when they return from daycare. Concerns arise more often when several of these factors appear recurrently.
Pursuing Compensation for Child Neglect
When a parent bears the responsibility for child neglect, this may lead to serious consequences for that parent. They might face reduced custody or even the termination of parental rights, in addition to criminal charges. However, daycares and other programs that care for children also may bear responsibility for neglect by failing to meet the needs of a child. When this happens, a parent can report the program to the appropriate authorities in their state or local jurisdiction. They also may be able to pursue a lawsuit for compensation. This would require showing that the defendant failed to act with reasonable care, and this caused harm to the child.
Damages for Child Neglect
Economic damages: medical expenses and other out-of-pocket costs incurred in resolving the consequences of the neglect
Non-economic damages: compensation for intangible harm that the child suffered because of the neglect, such as pain and suffering
Even if a specific individual was responsible for neglecting a child, parents may be able to sue that person’s employer as well. Under a theory known as vicarious liability, an employer may be indirectly liable for negligent actions by an employee in the course and scope of their employment. This is true regardless of whether the employer did anything wrong. In addition, an employer may be directly liable if it hired an unqualified employee, failed to properly train and supervise its employees, or failed to address any reported incidents of neglect, among other forms of negligence. Since most individual employees do not have substantial resources, holding an employer liable may be critical to getting full compensation for a child’s harm.
In general, parents have only one opportunity to pursue a claim for damages. To make sure that they fully assert their rights, they may want to contact an attorney who is experienced in these cases. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to prospective clients, and they usually collect fees only as a percentage of a settlement or judgment recovered for a client. Thus, parents do not need to worry about paying legal fees upfront.