What is Abuse or Neglect?

Child abuse has many faces, and while all abuse hurts, different kinds of abuse can hurt in different ways.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is when a child is injured or harmed by his or her caregiver, or when the caregiver fails to do something to protect the child. Injuries include bruises, cuts, welts, fractures, burns or internal injuries. Physical abuse can be one or two isolated incidents or can occur over a prolonged period of time.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any sexual exploitation of a child by a caregiver, or anyone else, and includes sexual touching, engaging in sexual activity with a child, exposing genitals to a child and incest. In addition to providing protection from sexual abuse, the Child and Family Services Act states that a child is also in need of protection when a caregiver is aware of the possibility of abuse and fails to protect the child.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse happens when a caregiver treats a child in an extremely negative way that damages self esteem and the concept of “self”. This type of behaviour might include constant yelling, demeaning remarks, rejection or isolation or exposing a child to domestic violence.


Most parents and caregivers don’t intend to neglect their children. Instead, neglect is usually the result of ignorance about parenting and an inability to plan ahead. Neglect is when a caregiver fails to provide a child’s basic needs like food, sleep, safety, supervision or appropriate clothing or medical treatment on a consistent basis. Neglect also occurs when a child has a medical, psychological or developmental condition that requires services or treatment and the person having charge of the child does not provide these services or treatment.


Abandonment or separation is when a child has been abandoned, when a child’s parent has died or when the parent is unavailable to exercise his or her custodial rights over a child and has not made adequate provision for the child’s care and custody. It also occurs when a child is in residential placement and the parent refuses or is unable or unwilling to resume the child’s care and custody.

Caregiver Capacity

Caregiver capacity is when no harm has come to a child and no evidence is apparent that a child may be in need of intervention but the caregiver demonstrates, or has demonstrated in the past, characteristics that indicate the child would be at risk of harm without intervention. These characteristics can include a history of abusing/neglecting a child, being unable to protect a child from harm, problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, mental health issues or limited care giving skills.