Signs of Risk

Consider a child or young person may be at risk of abuse or neglect if the family or child displays or is reported to display any of the following:

  • behaviour or emotional state of the child or young person is not consistent with their age and developmental stage, are out of proportion to a situation (e.g. frequent rages inconsolable crying), dissociation (transient episodes of detachment that are outside the child’s control), wetting or soiling, that cannot be otherwise explained
  • running away from home or care, or child or young person is living in alternative accommodation without the full agreement of their parents or carers
  • child or young person responds to a health examination or assessment in an unusual, unexpected or developmentally inappropriate way (e.g. extreme passivity, resistance or refusal)
  • a poor standard of hygiene that affects a child’s health, inadequate provision of food, a living environment that is unsafe for the child’s developmental stage
  • severe and persistent infestations, such as scabies or head lice
  • clothing or footwear is consistently in adequate
  • development delays, such as, faltering growth (due to lack of provision of an adequate or appropriate diet), poorer than expected language abilities for their overall development
  • child’s behaviour towards their parent or carer shows dislike or lack of cooperation, lack of interest or low responsiveness, high levels of anger or annoyance, seeming passivity or withdrawal
  • parent or carer’s negativity, hostility, rejection or scapegoating towards a child or young person
  • developmentally inappropriate expectations of or interactions with a child
  • exposure to frightening or traumatic experiences
  • parent or carer using the child for the fulfilment of the adult’s needs
  • parent or carer involving children in unlawful activities, isolation or not providing stimulation or education
  • emotional unavailability and unresponsiveness from the parent or carer towards a child or young person and in particular towards an infant.
  • parent or carer refuses to allow a child or young person to speak to a practitioner on their own when it is necessary for the assessment of the child or young person
  • parent or carer persistently fails to anticipate dangers and to take precautions to protect their child from harm
  • explanation for an injury (e.g. a burn, sunburn or an ingestion of a harmful substance) suggests a lack of appropriate supervision
  • parent or carer fails to administer essential prescribed treatment for their child
  • parent or carer fails to seek medical advice for their child to the extent that the child’s health and wellbeing is compromised
  • parent or carer repeatedly fails to bring their child to follow-up appointments that are essential for their child’s health and wellbeing
  • parent or carer persistently fails to engage with relevant child health promotion programmes, e.g. immunisation, health and development reviews, screening
  • parent or carer has access to but persistently fails to obtain treatment for their child’s dental caries (tooth decay)


Reference: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Child abuse and neglect, NICE guideline [NG76] Published date: October 2017,


What is vulnerability?

Assessment of Risk

Central Victoria Prevention & Population Health acknowledges the traditional owners on whose land we live and work, their rich culture and spiritual connection to country. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and celebrate their living culture and unique role in the life of our catchment.

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