The Invisible Child

2014: a 50-year-old Johannesburg man and his wife were arrested for allegedly locking up his four children in a room for eight months. He is reported to have told the police and social workers that he locked his children up because the world was a dangerous place and he did not want them killed.

A couple in their twenties were arrested in Brooklyn after they left their six month old baby boy unsupervised. After a police manhunt for the parents, the parents returned to their home at 3am smelling of alcohol.

In 2013 a women was arrested for child neglect after her son was found walking the streets at night.

These are just some tragic stories reflecting parents unable to look after their children.

In other cases of neglect, a child coming home from school with no one to share the news of their day with, children who see more of their nannies than their parents, children who are unable to form bonds with their parents due to no emotional connections are other examples. Some may say these situations are not as serious, but the truth of the matter is that child neglect and abandonment can take various forms such as emotional, physical, educational and medical neglect. Feeling unloved, unwanted, unseen or left to fend for yourself at a young age classifies as a form of neglect.

It is not always clear to detect if a child is being neglected, but there are signs you can look out for that can indicate if a child is a victim.

A child who is neglected may:

  • Have medical problems that are not being cared for

  • Not be properly supervised

  • Rarely attend school or not be attentive in class

  • Be dirty, unbathed or hungry

  • May exhibit sudden, extreme and/or unexplainable mood swings

  • Beg for, steal or hoard food

Child abuse is kept a secret and the shame the kids feel do not allow them to talk to anyone about their situation or ask for help. This neglect can often be left unseen and the victims live in a cycle that does not allow for them to feel valued, loved and cared for.

AIDS, poverty, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies are often the main reasons child neglect and abandonment occurs. Most of these victims of abandonment are children under 10 years as they are reportedly “easier” to abandon them in public places. Police and neighbours bring in the children they discover wandering the streets to Child Protection Services and in more tragic cases, babies are found wrapped in plastic bags in dumpsters-these as young as new-borns to 12-month old babies.Child Welfare reports that older children are more often left with relatives before their biological parents disappear.

Reports by Child Welfare SA say that the number of cases has been showing a steady increase every year. The severity of the neglect differs, with neglect resulting in death as the most severe. However, the when a child grows up without the healthy love, support and attachment needed from a parent, they grow up believing they are invisible- the scars and impact of which, can be detrimental to their future.

Nelly Kgoabi

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