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2012年7月30日 (月)

児童虐待 通報を生かす態勢の拡充急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 30, 2012)
System must be improved to utilize reports of child abuse
児童虐待 通報を生かす態勢の拡充急げ(7月29日付・読売社説)

To save small children from being abused, it is imperative for child consultation centers and neighbors to cooperate to quickly discover any abnormal goings-on.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has compiled the number of reports and consultations concerning maltreatment of children that were dealt with by child consultation centers throughout the country in fiscal 2011.

The total number stood at 59,862, an increase of about 3,500 from fiscal 2010. This was the 21st consecutive year to see a record high in such cases.

One factor behind the rise in child abuse cases may be heightened awareness among the public of the importance of making reports to concerned parties to prevent child abuse.

On July 25, the parents of a 1-year-old girl in Hyogo Prefecture were arrested for abusing her, and the girl was put under protection by a child welfare facility.

What led to the parents' arrest was a report to police from a customer at a shop visited by the parents and their daughter. The customer was suspicious about bruises on the baby's face and reported the matter to police.


Consultation centers sloppy

We should not hesitate to take such action, which many people are prone to consider meddlesome. The Child Abuse Prevention Law enacted in 2000 requires everyone to inform authorities of perceived cases of child abuse.

However, the problem is whether the higher consciousness of child abuse among the public can be adequately utilized to reduce the number of cases.

A breakdown of child abuse cases in fiscal 2010 that was also released along with the figures for abuse cases in fiscal 2011 showed that 51 children died as a result of abuse across the country in fiscal 2010. Child consultation centers had obtained information about seven of the 51 before their deaths.

Recently, a 5-year-old boy died because of violence inflicted by his mother and her common-law husband on July 9 in Saitama Prefecture.

The child consultation center concerned learned about the couple's abuse of the small boy and put him temporarily under protective custody. The center, however, subsequently decided that the danger of further abuse had lessened and returned him to the parents.

The distressing result was primarily due to the misjudgment of the consultation center. An important lesson must be drawn from this tragedy and used to improve how child consultation centers respond to abuse.

Child consultation centers have long had the structural problem of staff shortages.

The numbers of reports and consultations regarding child abuse have increased to 2.6 times their level a decade ago, but the number of child welfare social workers is only 1.6 times the figure 10 years ago.


Suspension of parental rights

Without first securing a sufficient number of personnel capable of dealing with the initial stages of child abuse, it is hardly possible to effectively respond to serious child abuse cases. All prefectural governments and government ordinance-designated major cities should make a thorough review of the current placement of child welfare staffers, as beefing up personnel arrangements is an urgent issue.

It was also worthy of note that 80 percent of fatalities from child abuse involve children under the age of 4. Especially conspicuous are cases of abuse by young parents whose children were born due to unwanted pregnancies.

In light of this, obstetricians and other medical staff should enhance their cooperation to prevent child abuse.

Another problem that should be addressed is the fact that some parents refuse intervention by child consultation centers and other child protection organs on the grounds of their parental rights.

To cope with this situation, a new legal system was put into force in April, under which a family court can temporarily suspend parental rights if a petition is filed by the chief of a child consultation center. The system is designed to help parents who have abused their children rehabilitate themselves over a certain period of time.

There were seven such petitions from the heads of child consultation centers from April to June.

The system should be fully utilized to help rebuild parent-child relations that could otherwise plunge into tragedy of child abuse.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2012)
(2012年7月29日02時25分  読売新聞)


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