National

Japan sees rise in child abuse cases at orphanages and foster homes

Kyodo

The number of child abuse cases reported in orphanages and foster homes has increased in recent years, according to government data, with some of the victims having been placed in such care due to similar mistreatment suffered at home.

In fiscal 2016, 128 children in 87 cases suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse from orphanage personnel or foster parents, up from 86 children in 62 cases in fiscal 2014, data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed.

Meanwhile, child consultation centers across Japan handled a record 133,778 child abuse cases in fiscal 2017, according to separate preliminary data from the ministry.

Some children in orphanages or foster homes were continuously abused for more than six months, the data showed. The figures were compiled based on investigations by municipalities, which received reports on abusive behavior by orphanage staff and foster parents.

Among types of abuse, physical abuse was the most frequently reported with 49 cases in fiscal 2015 and 52 in fiscal 2016.

Around 15 cases of psychological abuse, including verbal, and the same number of sexual abuse cases were reported in each of the two years.

There was one case in which an orphanage employee kicked a child who did not follow a warning, and another where a foster parent subjected a child to daily verbal abuse. Cases of abuse were also reported at facilities accommodating the disabled or delinquents, according to the data.

In most cases, the abuse ceased within a week, the data showed.

After the abuse cases came to light, municipalities instructed the facilities to prevent a recurrence or stepped up support for foster parents, the ministry said.

In March this year, Yua Funato, 5, died in Tokyo after being abused and neglected by her parents despite her desperate pleas for them to stop mistreating her. Her case shocked the public. It was reported that she left a message in a notebook saying, “Please, please forgive me.”

Following her death, the government compiled emergency measures to tackle child abuse, including a plan to boost the number of child welfare staff nationwide by about 2,000 by fiscal 2022, from 3,253 as of April last year.