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The Complexities of Child Neglect from a Social Work Practice Perspective

Review

Child neglect involves parental misconduct that results in physical or emo¬tional harm, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, or, in extreme cases, the death of the child. Child neglect is often seen as an act of inaction, essentially neglect, negligence, which puts children at high risk of harm. In Lithuania, there are studies about child abuse; however, the dilemma of defining child neglect in the social work process is not widely addressed while the dilemma of defining child neglect in the social work process is not widely studied. The aim of the article is to discuss the complexities of the definition of child neglect in the scientific literature and to reveal the concept of child neglect from the point of view of social workers working with the family. The results from the qualitative study are presented. The research aimed to reveal the subjective experience and assessments of social workers. Data were collected using an unstructured interview method, during which study participants were asked to share their professional experiences working with specific family cases. The study involved five social workers with at least one year’s experience in family social work. The results of the study suggest that child neglect is a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing physical, emotional, medical, and educational neglect. These forms of neglect occur in families, which face complex problems arising both from the lack of internal family resources and from external structural conditions that disrupt the function¬ing of the family. The problems experienced by families can be considered as the cause of neglect, and the consequences of neglect are manifested in the misbehaviour of young people, which further increases the complexity of the problems experienced by families. The study reveals that child neglect is associated with dysfunctional behaviour in families ignoring external structural factors such as unemployment, work-related stress, or an unsafe neighbourhood. Cases of child neglect are a difficult and complex area of practice for social workers and other child welfare professionals. This complexity is also determined by the uncertainty of the concept of neglect in Lithuanian law.
Keywords: children rights, child neglect, social work.

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