Child consultation centers dealt with 66,807 child abuse cases in fiscal 2012 through March of this year, exceeding 60,000 for the first time since the tally started in fiscal 1990, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Thursday.

"With social awareness of child abuse growing, expanding cooperation between police and child counseling centers led to an increase in reports and consultations," a ministry official said.

The ministry also said child consultation center chiefs asked family courts to suspend parental rights to prevent child abuse in 27 cases, based on the revised Civil Code.

The revision, which became effective on April 1 last year, enables family courts to suspend parental rights for up to two years at the request of consultation center chiefs, children themselves or their relatives to prevent child abuse. It is hoped parents and children will be able to rebuild their relationship during the two-year period.

Among the 27 cases, a parent refused to give permission for heart surgery to be performed on a child with Down syndrome, leading a child consultation center head to apply for the suspension of parental rights.

A family court issued a provisional ruling to allow the child to have surgery. The application was withdrawn later as the child made good progress after the operation.

Family courts have already approved the suspension of parental rights in 15 of the 27 cases.

Meanwhile, 58 children died due to child abuse in cases other than when parents took their children's lives before committing suicide in fiscal 2011. Twenty-five of them were under the age of 1, the ministry said.

Many of the victims are believed to have been babies born from unwanted pregnancies or to teenage mothers.