The death of a 2-year-old boy while under the care of a baby sitter in Saitama Prefecture highlights the need for measures and systems to ensure that parents can leave their children with reliable parties, experts say.
According to reports, the child’s mother, a resident of Yokohama, hired the man through an online baby-sitting broker website, and that the boy and his 8-month-old brother were kept in the man’s apartment in Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture. The mother apparently barely knew who the man was.
Akemi Morita, a Toyo University professor of child welfare, stressed the need for a system to vet baby sitters.
“By all means, it is necessary for customers to check the baby sitters before handing over their children,” Morita said.
But if for some reason they are unable to do so, it’s important to have in place a system that ensures that all caregivers are qualified, she said.
While baby-sitting is unregulated in this country, the All Japan Childcare Service Association does offer certification. The man under arrest was not certified, according to media reports.
Association official Toru Nishimoto said 100 operators and 20,000 sitters are currently registered with the organization.
An official with the child care division of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said it grants subsidies to the association to train caregivers to ensure the quality of service.
Technically speaking, the arrested man was not a baby sitter because the children were watched over outside their home, Nishimoto said.
He said the association defines baby-sitting as “offering child care service at the customers’ homes.” For this reason, the association objects to the use of the term baby sitter in this case, Nishimoto said.
Morita of Toyo University noted that although sitters dispatched by operators belonging to the childcare association are properly trained, they are also more expensive, as the operators take a commission.
“Parents tend to hire (baby sitters) directly to avoid commissions,” Morita said. “Adults have to secure the safety of children. We have to come up with ways to cover those commissions.”
The welfare ministry will launch a system of municipality-approved baby-sitting operators in fiscal 2015, according to a ministry official.
The ministry hopes the systemwill increase the number of qualified operators, the official said, adding that subsidies will help keep their fees down.
Nishimoto questioned the validity of Web-based child care businesses that match customers and baby-sitting operators. “Our association aims to ensure safety and security by asking operators to provide various measures,” including signing a contract with the customers in person and interviewing potential baby sitters before they’re hired.
“We try to establish relationships and trust between the customers and operators, which seems contrary to the aim of such matching websites,” which omit such procedures, Nishimoto said.