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Poverty, isolation push Japan’s child abuse cases to record high

Kyodo

Child welfare authorities dealt with nearly 90,000 child abuse cases in the fiscal year ending March, a government survey showed Thursday, with experts blaming the record-high figure on increased poverty and the isolation of some families.

Logging the largest-ever increase of 20.5 percent from the previous year’s 73,000, the preliminary survey by the health ministry showed the number of cases handled by 207 child consultation centers across the country in fiscal 2014 reached 88,931, up for the 24th consecutive year since the survey started in 1990.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare attributed the rise to the widened scope of circumstances that can be reported as abuse following an August 2013 notice that instructed the centers to deal with siblings of abused children as they may also be suffering from psychological abuse.

The number of cases reported by police to the centers in which children witnessed abuse of a parent or other family member has also increased, it said.

Experts gave a grim outlook, with Tetsuro Tsuzaki, head of the Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect, saying the number of abuse cases was “likely to continue increasing.”

“We are seeing an environment in which abuse is more likely to occur,” he said, referring to factors such as an increase in step families, financially distressed families and those in isolated areas.

The latest survey also showed 36 children died due to abuse in fiscal 2013, compared with 51 the year before, with mothers found responsible for the death of 16 children, fathers eight and both parents five.

A total of 21 children died after being physically abused, while nine had been neglected. The cause of death for the remaining six was unclear, the report said.

Of the children, 24 were aged 2 or younger, and in many cases the mothers were reluctant to receive prenatal care or became pregnant unintentionally and had problems raising children. About 80 percent of the mothers had limited or almost no contact with local communities, it showed.