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Child abuse cases handled by consultation offices hit a record 44,210 in fiscal 2009, rising for 19 straight years since statistics were first compiled in fiscal 1990, a government survey showed Wednesday.

The figure reflects an increase of 1,546 cases from fiscal 2008, when the previous record was set, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said in a preliminary report.

During the reporting year, which ended in March, there was only one case requiring counselors to visit a household where child abuse was suspected, after the family had rejected the investigation, down from two cases in fiscal 2008 when such measures became possible under the revised child abuse prevention law.

“The increase (in cases processed) likely comes against the backdrop of growing public awareness,” a ministry official said, noting moves by local governments to expand their consultation services may also be a contributing factor.

The cases include those in which child consultation offices run by the 47 prefectural governments as well as 20 municipal governments took action. These actions included temporarily taking children into protective custody or visiting families after receiving inquiries or being informed about suspected child abuse.

The number of cases increased from fiscal 2008 in 24 prefectures, with Mie seeing the largest percentage increase — 37 percent — 541 cases, followed by Ibaraki with a 34 percent rise to 718 cases and Miyazaki up 27 percent to 365 cases.

Among the 11 cities where the number of cases increased, Osaka had the biggest jump — 84 percent — to 1,606, ahead of Shizuoka’s 52 percent surge to 279 cases and a similar rise in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, to 226.

Of the 23 prefectures and nine municipalities where the number of cases declined, Nagasaki Prefecture reported the largest decrease, with a 31 percent fall to 197 cases. Niigata was the city with the biggest slide, dropping 17 percent to 266 cases.

Meanwhile, a ministry panel said about half of the child abuse cases involving deaths in fiscal 2008 occurred even though consultation offices, medical facilities or schools were in involved in some way.

Of the 67 deaths in 64 cases between April 2008 and March 2009 that the ministry is aware of, such institutions had some sort of contact with the families in 35 cases.

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