Social Work Now, issue 48, pages 25-32.
Children and young people are vital members of families, communities, and society, and ultimately of future generations. As such they have indelible human rights, as signalled by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. When addressing an issue like child neglect, it is easy to be sidetracked by the inherent complexity of the issue, but the importance of ensuring children’s fundamental rights are protected should also come to the fore.
Child protection agencies work with a difficult balancing act – ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and their sense of belonging in family, while making sure parents take responsibility for meeting their children’s needs. As has been highlighted in a number of the articles in this edition, neglect is an issue that offers challenges for practitioners.
Mardani (2010, p. viii) suggests that neglect is “less tangible and harder to define” than other forms of child maltreatment and that is certainly borne out in practice. Neglect is invasive, difficult to tackle and commonly seen in the population of children and young people brought to the attention of child protection services. It is often manifested with multiple, persistent and complex issues. Neglect is often not a headline grabber, and it can be difficult to keep public interest in this area of child protection. The media is more likely to report on physical abuse, as it is the most obvious and visible form of abuse. However, we know all too well that neglect is the silent abuse that has potentially significant impacts on children.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner produced a report on child neglect in 2010 written by Janine Mardani. Nicola Atwool from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner has written a summary of this report for this edition of Social Work Now. It sheds light on an important topic and calls for various agencies to work together. This article is both a reply to that report and an opportunity for Child, Youth and Family to articulate how it tackles the issue of child neglect.