How and Why it Happens

How it Happens

Abuse or neglect of a child can happen in two ways – in acts of commission (doing something to a child) and in acts of omission (not doing something for a child).

An act of commission is specifically when a parent or caregiver harms or is likely to harm a child. For example, striking a child or sexually molesting a child is an act of commission.

An act of abuse or neglect through omission results from a caregiver not taking action to protect a child. For example, allowing a small child to play near a busy street unsupervised or allowing a known sexual offender to be alone with your child could be acts of omission.

Why it Happens

There are many factors contributing to child abuse and neglect and many reasons why children come into the care of Highland Shores Children’s Aid. Sometimes parents need help in identifying abusive patterns and learning techniques that can keep children safe at home. Other times, parents request assistance due to social and economic factors beyond their control.


As front-line service providers with the legal responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect, Highland Shores Children’s Aid knows, first-hand, the impact of economic uncertainty, plant closures, job loss and family stress on the well-being of children and youth. While poverty, on its own, does not result in child abuse or neglect, research clearly identifies a link between poverty and child abuse, mental health issues and domestic abuse.

Source: Campaign 2000, Report On Child Poverty, 2008

Domestic Violence

Between 1991 and 2003 in Ontario, there was a 31 percent increase in substantiated reports of child abuse where exposure to domestic violence was the reason for the call.

Source: Schumacher and Golden, Research Update: The 2008 Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse & Neglected; OACAS Journal Volume 52, Number 2, Summer 2009

Substance Abuse

Child abuse or neglect and substance abuse are very closely related. It is estimated that 40 to 80 percent of the three million children who come to the attention of the child welfare systems in Canada each year live in families with addiction problems, according to numerous surveys of child welfare agencies nationwide*. Approximately one million of these children are confirmed to be abused or neglected. **When parents are substance abusers, it more than doubles the risk of exposure to both childhood physical and sexual abuse.

*Source: Walsh, MacMillan, and Jamieson, E. The Relationship between Parental Sustance Abuse and Child Maltreatment: Findings from the Ontario Health Supplement. Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal December 2003, 27 (12)p. 1409-1425

**Source: Ibid

Mental Health

Mental health issues are prevalent in 23 percent of mothers and 14 percent of fathers in cases of substantiated child abuse where they are the abusers*. Funding support for mental health and addictions remains low. There are half a million children and youth in Ontario with mental health problems who may suffer from conditions including depression, anxiety, bullying or an eating disorder.

*Source: Ontario Incidence Study; 2003