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Child at risk of harm and neglect

Information on what child abuse and neglect is, the signs of abuse, and how to respond when a child or adult tells you about abuse.

If a parent tells you about child abuse

If you think a child or young person is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect, contact the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (open 24 hours/7 day)

A parent or carer may disclose they have or could harm their child, or that another household member has done so.

Parents who physically harm or neglect their children or tolerate their partner doing so may still love their children. The behaviour may be due to a range of factors such as:

  • lacking a successful model of parenting and family life
  • having been abused as children
  • lacking an understanding of their child’s needs or of age-appropriate expectations
  • being overwhelmed by external stressors and unable to cope
  • expecting their child to satisfy their own emotional needs
  • being victims of violence themselves
  • not being able to control their anger or frustration, resulting in lashing out at their child
  • chronic illness, such as depression, or disability, which limits their ability to meet the needs of their children.

Try not to judge

It is important to suspend personal judgment about the parent. Do not either minimise or exaggerate their behaviour or attitudes. It is also important not to ignore the role of the parent or carer who has failed to protect their child or young person, or to prematurely regard them as an innocent party or a minimally responsible party.

Focus on the child

The reporter’s focus should remain on how the child or young person is experiencing the parental or carer behaviours, their particular vulnerabilities and any risk of significant harm. The obligation to report current concerns exists regardless of a parent’s remorse or their stated intention to seek help.

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Last updated: 10 Oct 2017
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