It takes a great deal of courage and trust for a child to disclose that s/he is experiencing neglect. If a child confides in you, use the following guidelines to respond in a helpful and sensitive way.
When a child discloses
- Stay calm and neutral. The child may retract information or stop talking if s/he senses a strong reaction from you.
- Believe the child and be supportive. Children rarely make up stories about neglect.
- Listen without interrogating the child or passing judgment. Most children know their abusers and often have conflicted feelings. Let the child tell the story at his/her own pace.
- Validate the child feelings. Tell the child you are glad s/he told you.
- Assure the child you care and that the neglect is not his/her fault.
- Find out what the child wants from you.
Early intervention in child neglect helps a child heal faster, and reduces the long-term effects of the abuse on the child. Remember—when a child tells you about abuse, he or she is using a tremendous amount of courage, and is looking to you for help.
Responding to your belief that abuse has occurred, or is occurring, can be the first important step in stopping the abuse and protecting the child from further harm.
Take action. Call ChildLine (the child abuse hotline) immediately: 1-800-932-0313. If there are immediate safety concerns, also call 911.