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2014年9月29日 (月)

児童虐待防止 妊娠期から切れ目ない支援を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Stopping child abuse requires system of support that begins with pregnancy
児童虐待防止 妊娠期から切れ目ない支援を

Cases of child abuse are continuing unabated. Systems that can prevent or detect and deal with child abuse at an early stage need to be put in place quickly.

According to the National Police Agency, police across Japan reported to child consultation centers cases involving suspected abuse of 13,037 children from January to June this year. This is the highest figure on record for a six-month period.

In fiscal 2012, 51 children died after being abused, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry report. Of these children, 63 percent died due to physical abuse, and 28 percent due to parental neglect. In 75 percent of these cases, the biological mother was the abuser.

One especially eye-catching statistic was the fact that more than 40 percent of the children who died due to abuse were still in their first year. About half of these infants were less than 1 month old.

A review by a panel of experts established by the ministry found that 70 percent of the infants who died due to abuse had been “unwanted pregnancies.” Noticeably, many of these mothers had not received maternity or child health record notebooks from their local municipal governments, and many had not received regular checkups while they were pregnant.

When a pregnant woman who is alone is afflicted by worries and gives birth, it can lead to tragedy. The expert panel called, with good reason, for a stepped-up consultation and support system to be available to women right from when they find out they are pregnant.

The city of Nabari, Mie Prefecture, has introduced a system in which counseling about pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing is unified, and specialist staff can provide support to women who need it.

The city government of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, will soon start compiling support plans for women raising children, and public health nurses and other professionals will be continually available to personally talk with mothers and mothers-to-be.

Sharing info crucial

All of these initiatives form part of the ministry’s model project for creating a seamless system that supports mothers, beginning with prenatal care.

Such support tailored for mothers and children will not only prevent the fatal abuse of infants, but also help prevent abuse triggered by financial anxieties and exhaustion from raising children. We hope such efforts will be implemented in more areas.

In this regard, it is essential that pregnant women be told where counseling services are available so they easily know where they can go to discuss problems. City, town and village governments will also need to work closely with obstetricians and others so households in need of support are identified.

Preventing child abuse will require stronger cooperation between medical institutions, day care centers for children, schools and other facilities involved in taking care of children. In many cases, child consultation centers and local governments have been aware that a household was having problems, but insufficiently close cooperation has meant a death due to abuse could not be prevented.

It is also problematic that information about child abuse and children whose whereabouts are unknown is not being shared between municipal governments. When families with a risk of abuse frequently move to a new address, support for them can be interrupted. This has resulted in cases snowballing into more serious situations. These governments need to discern how such information can be shared quickly and efficiently.

The Child Abuse Prevention Law obligates anyone who notices a child has been abused to report it to a child consultation center or some other bodies that can help. It is vital that the whole of society watches over its children.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2014)Speech


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