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The number of consultations concerning child abuse at children’s counseling centers across the nation rose to a record high 24,195 in fiscal 2002, up 921 from the year before, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The total represents a 22-fold increase from the 1,101 recorded in fiscal 1990, when the then Health and Welfare Ministry started gathering such data.

The number of consultations has seen an increase every year since 1990, increasing by about 1,000 a year from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 1998 and thereafter rising at an annual pace of 4,000 to 6,000 until fiscal 2001.

But the number of requests for consultations received by the counseling centers fell by 538 in fiscal 2002 from the previous year to 24,254.

The number of consultations does not match the number of requests because the consultations do not necessarily end within the same fiscal year.

This is the first time that requests for consultations have fallen since the ministry started compiling data of this kind in fiscal 2000.

The statistics for fiscal 2002 show there were 230 cases in which counseling center staff decided there was a risk of child abuse and carried out home inspections, up by 30 from the year before.

Serious cases are also on the rise, with home inspections and cases in which police helped take children into protective custody growing by 24 to 402.

The ministry plans to analyze the consultation cases in fiscal 2002.

In fiscal 2001, 46.5 percent of consultations concerned physical abuse, 37.8 percent were for parental neglect, including not providing meals, and 12.3 percent were over verbal or psychological abuse.

Jun Saimura, head of social work research at the Japan Child and Family Research Institute, said the centers have reached capacity in terms of providing child abuse consultations.

“More entities, such as local governments, need to share the burden,” he said. “There are still cases where consultations are not held and children become tragic victims, and there are many mothers who are worried about child-rearing and on the verge of abusing their children.”

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