The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has allocated funds to station psychiatrists at 114 child-counseling centers nationwide to help parents who may be at risk of committing child abuse.

The psychiatrists will provide services on a part-time basis from April 1 at child-counseling centers operated by local governments.

Each center will receive a 350,000 yen annual subsidy under the new policy, which is part of an initiative to counter the rising incidence of child abuse.

Child-counseling centers were set up primarily to provide counseling to children who are temporarily being protected there.

However, with the recent increase in the number cases of child abuse caused by emotionally disturbed parents, the government has decided to offer counseling services to parents at the centers in a cooperative effort with the Japan Medical Association.

The policy was prompted by studies showing that child abuse is not limited to emotionally disturbed people. Child experts say parents who experienced abuse during their childhood are prone to abusing their own children.

Psychiatrists working at the child-counseling centers would also help counseling staff to set up preventive programs to halt child abuse.

According to the ministry, the number of child abuse cases referred to the centers has been increasing gradually in recent years, totaling 10,631 in fiscal 1999.

Under the Child Abuse Prevention Law, which went into force in November, teachers at schools and nursery schools, doctors and other child-care professionals are required to report all cases of abuse to counseling centers.

In the U.S., where as many as 3 million cases of child abuse are reported each year, many states have adopted policies mandating institutionalized care for abusers.

In Japan, there has been no comprehensive policy on how to cope with child abuse, with child-care professionals such as obstetricians, gynecologists and pediatricians addressing the issue with little policy guidance.

The Health Ministry as well as local governments will assist their efforts beginning in fiscal 2001.

A pilot project run jointly by obstetricians and pediatricians to counsel expectant mothers before and after their deliveries is also in the works.

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