Only one in 10 public child consultation centers across the nation have full-time psychiatrists to handle child-abuse cases, according to a health ministry research group.

Although more than three-quarters of the centers questioned said there is a need to employ or increase the number of child psychiatrists, many cited inadequate budgets and a shortage of psychiatrists. The results suggest the current health-care system’s inability to deal with rapidly increasing cases of child abuse in Japan.

Experts say there is a pressing need to establish a satisfactory system for child counseling as the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is planning to revise the child abuse prevention law in the fall.

The amendment will aim to help families in which child abuse has occurred by providing psychological treatment for both children and parents, instead of the current policy of temporarily removing the child from the parents’ custody.

The ministry requires centers to have psychiatrists, but only 18 of 155 facilities that responded to the group’s survey last fall said they had at least one full-time psychiatrist on staff. The others said they used part-time psychiatrists.

The survey also shows a gap between urban and rural areas, with many centers that have full-time psychiatrists being in large cities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto.

The group, led by Hiroaki Homma, head of the Miyagi prefectural child center, conducted the survey last week on child consultation centers established by all the nation’s 47 prefectural governments and 12 of the 13 largest cities.

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