Poverty and Child Neglect

Poverty and Child Neglect: www.child-abuse-effects.com

Poverty and child neglect are related, but poverty does not cause neglect. Although poverty does not cause neglect, poverty permeates neglecting families.

What is the difference between poverty and neglect?

Poverty is when the caregiver does not have the resources to provide the need.

Neglect is when the caregiver has the resources, but chooses not to provide the need. Therefore, neglect is a choice.

Some Poverty and Child Neglect Facts

  Approximately 1.1 million Canadian children, or 16.4%, are living in poverty (Campaign 2000's 2002 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty1 ).

  In 1998, 19% of Canada's children lived in poverty: persistent poverty affected 12% of children (Save the Children Canada, 20012 ).

  Many Aboriginal communities exist in conditions of extreme poverty and unemployment. More than 70% of Aboriginal households live below the poverty line, while unemployment ranges from 50 - 90% (Health Canada, 19963 ).

  Neglect of children and youth is more closely tied to poverty than child abuse (Crittenden, 1996, p. 1624 ).

Society relies on established knowledge and opinion about what a child needs to develop and thrive within normal limits to determine what constitutes inappropriate and inadequate parenting. However, society continues to ignore and negate the devastating effect neglect has on children, families and society. Simply instructing neglecting parents about how to parent or punishing them for inadequate parenting will not eradicate the neglect of children. This approach places the responsibility for neglect solely on the parents and excuses the family, the community, society and our culture.


In Canada, there are social services in place to help families in need. But with regard to poverty and child neglect, the system is still woefully inadequate, due to:

  • a lack of government resources
  • the difficulty in trying to differentiate between neglect and lack of adequate resources
  • and the shame of asking for charity that can be associated with poverty.
While it is beyond the scope of this website to get into a lengthy discussion about how government, society and families can and possibly should take more responsibility with regard to poverty and child neglect, it is important to note that the latter two points above make providing assistance challenging.

Poverty and neglect is a conundrum, but the basic human needs of a child is what should ultimately be considered, not who is to blame and why.


Poverty and Child Neglect

NOTE: Information pages on this site were based on material from the Canadian Red CrossCanadian Red Cross RespectED Training Program. Written permission was obtained to use their copyrighted material on this site.

1 Campaign 2000. (2002). 2002 report card on child and family poverty. Retrieved December 2, 2002 from http://www.campaign2000.ca.

2 Save the Children Canada. (2001). A Canada fit for children: A report on the realities for young people in Canada today. Toronto: Save the Children Canada.

3 Health Canada. (1996). Breaking the links between poverty and violence against women. Ottawa: Health Canada, Family Violence Prevention Division.

4 Crittenden, P. (1996). Research on maltreating families. In J. Briere, L. Berliner, J.A. Bulkley, C. Jenny, & T. Reid (Eds.), The APSAC Handbook On Child Maltreatment, (pp.158-174). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, INC.


Back to Homepage

Last updated March 27, 2014

E-book: Victim To Victory

From Victim to Victory
a memoir

How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life


Do you want to be notified of future healing workshops by Darlene Barriere?

Free Sign-Up