Possible environmental indicators of child neglect

There are many factors that may be present in a particular environment that pose potential health and safety hazards for the humans and animals in that environment. Children are inherently more at-risk for harm from environmental hazards since the may lack awareness and understanding of what may be harmful to them.  Child neglect consists of many factors and the observation of one or more of the above listed conditions alone is insufficient to make a determination of neglect. It is important to assess the overall mindset and awareness of a child’s caregiver and their responsiveness and management of environmental conditions that may be potentially harmful towards children. When observing the conditions in any environment, be particularly mindful of the following conditions:

  • lack of food or clean water
  • feces, urine – (human, animal)
  • overflowing garbage/dirty dishes/ rotting food or formula
  • toilets not in working condition
  • alcohol or other drugs ( legal, illegal, prescription or over the counter) that are unsecured or within child’s reach
  • unsecured or  accessible sharp objects ( knives, tools, scissors, etc)
  • choking or suffocation hazards (plastic bags, blinds, cords, small ingestible objects)
  • drowning hazards ( unsecured or unsupervised hot tubs, pools, ponds, stock tanks, etc)
  • falling hazards (stairs, steps, balconies, windows, window wells, construction excavations, etc)
  • presence of sick, injured,  dangerous animals
  • infestation of insects or vermin
  • presence of criminal or gang activity
  • presence of meth lab
  • needles, drug paraphernalia
  • firearms or other weapons (especially unsecured)
  • poisonous household  products ( cleaning products, beauty products, solvents, paint, stain, adhesives, fertilizer, herbicides/insecticides, petroleum products, etc)
  • fire hazards ( exposed electrical wires/switches, combustible materials close to heat sources, open fireplaces)
  • external locks or locking devices  on bedrooms/ bathrooms
  • unsecured power tools, vehicles, construction or farm equipment
  • abandoned appliances or vehicles

Child protection workers receive specialized training to investigate and make determinations of child maltreatment.  If you observe children that you suspect are or have been neglected or abused, make a report to the appropriate humans services department or law enforcement.