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2014年8月 6日 (水)

(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

August 05, 2014
EDITORIAL: Multilayered approach needed to prevent child abuse
(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

Child consultation centers across Japan recognized and confirmed a record 73,765 cases of child abuse in fiscal 2013, according to data released recently by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number has broken records for 23 straight years since fiscal 1990, when the ministry started compiling the statistics.

The ministry said the number of child abuse cases remains “on a high level.” Ministry officials added that the main factor behind the steady increase in the number of recognized cases is “heightened public interest” in the problem, which has led to a larger number of consultations and reports concerning child abuse.

If the ministry’s explanation is accurate, the data indicate that our society’s ability to detect and recognize child abuse has improved.

It is depressing to know that so many children suffer abuse in this nation. The first priority in dealing with this problem should be saving children from abuse.

It is crucial to detect abuse at an early stage. That requires close cooperation among related organizations, including schools, child consultation centers, local governments and medical institutions.

In the case of the recent suicide of a second-year junior high school student in the city of Nishi-Tokyo who was a victim of abuse by his father, the school was aware of bruises on his face but failed to notify the local child consultation center.

In an Aug. 4 conference of the heads of child consultation centers from around the country, the importance of cooperation among related institutions was emphasized afresh. People and organizations concerned should figure out ways to ensure practical cooperation with each other while putting the top priority on the safety of children.

More efforts should be made to detect early warning signs so that child abuse can be prevented.

Abuse by parents accounts for an overwhelming 93 percent of the cases handled by child consultation centers, according to data for fiscal 2012. The other cases involve grandparents or other relatives, such as uncles and aunts.

Many experts say child rearing in an isolated environment often leads to abuse. If so, steps should be taken to prevent parents raising children from becoming isolated.

There should be more places where parents can seek counseling on child rearing as well as help to deal with problems they are facing without feeling hesitant or uncomfortable.

The proposed program of free preschool education the government is now considering would be an effective measure also from the viewpoint of policy support for child care.

If kindergartens and day nurseries become more accessible for low-income families, these institutions can serve as intermediaries to help troubled families receive support from child consultation centers and government organizations.

These institutions could do a lot to help prevent child abuse by gathering more detailed information about the child-care situations in families, such as whether infants are not receiving health checkups or if the parents are having difficulties raising their children.

It is also important to make sure that child abuse is not viewed simply as a problem in the relationships between children and their parents or those among family members.

The questions we need to ask ourselves include whether our society puts strong pressure on parents to assume all responsibility for taking care of their children and whether enough policy support is offered to help parents find jobs and ensure stable livelihoods.

It is vital for all of us to understand that child abuse is a problem for our entire society and work out effective measures to tackle this urgent social challenge from a broad perspective.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 5


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