The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to have child consultation centers operate 24 hours a day, every day, to handle an increasing number of child abuse and delinquency cases, ministry officials said Thursday.

The extended service will be adopted at 60 key centers — one each in 47 prefectures and 13 major cities — that will take children into protective custody and carry out other measures on a round-the-clock basis, the officials said.

The ministry plans to ask for 170 million yen in funds in the fiscal 2005 budget for starting the service, the officials said. The funds will be earmarked to subsidize local-level governments so they can provide counseling for parents at the centers and meet other staffing needs around the clock.

Juvenile consultation centers currently accept reports on child abuse 24 hours a day.

But there have been cases in which they have declined to take children into custody at night, weekends and holidays on grounds that they do not have the proper staff; some facilities are only staffed by security guards at night.

Only three major cities — Yokohama, Fukuoka and Kyoto — and three prefectures — Hyogo, Gunma and Kumamoto — staff their child consultation centers with counselors 24 hours a day.

While Tokyo keeps consultation windows open at its centers on weekends and holidays and can take kids into custody, they are not open 24 hours. Under the ministry’s new program, each of the 60 key centers will have at least one worker capable of accepting abused or delinquent children.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.