Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#576(Special)】Needing Specialists and Parent Education to Prevent Child Abuse
Shiro Takahashi

【#576(Special)】Needing Specialists and Parent Education to Prevent Child Abuse

Shiro Takahashi / 2019.03.06 (Wed)

March 4, 2019

     The fatal abuse of a fourth grader girl by her parents in Chiba Prefecture has prompted the government and ruling parties to ban corporal punishment in a bill to be submitted to the current session of the National Diet. On February 27, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s special committee on child abuse held a joint meeting with the Health, Labor and Welfare Division of its Policy Research Council to consider 19 recommendations, including an increase in the number of child welfare officers and other relevant specialists and collaboration between specialized organizations, regarding the bill to revise the Child Welfare Act and the Child Abuse Prevention Act.

Increase in specialists and collaboration alone cannot resolve the problem
     However, any increase in the number of specialists may be meaningless unless their quality is improved. About 60% of some 3,400 child welfare officers in Japan have less than five year experience in their positions. They may move between offices or resign in a few years. Child welfare officers must make time-consuming efforts to build close relations with children and parents in dealing with abuse. If moved from an office to another, any such officer must make a start from zero.
     If temporary child welfare officers are employed, they may take much time to get familiar with rules for public servants, adding fuel to confusion in efforts to deal with specific abuse cases. Any increase in the number of specialists and greater collaboration between relevant organizations alone could only worsen the situation.
     In recent years, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of psychological abuse cases in which parents use violence against their spouses in front of their children. Local governments have increased child guidance consultants while failing to nurture human resources who can resolve domestic violence in front of children and disputes between fathers and mothers. Police, local government officials and Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers alone cannot address such psychological abuse of children.

A home education law should be enacted
     Parents must change to eliminate child abuse. In addition to the absence of effective counseling and programs, however, the number of specialists to support parents regarding child abuse is extremely limited.
     Second to 14th surveys of fatal child abuse cases by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare have attributed 105 deaths to failure to give protection, 85 deaths to physical discipline, 72 deaths to the rejection or denial of children’s presence and 60 deaths to frustration with crying babies.
     A report overseas says that child abuse cases decreased after parents were educated about how to deal with babies in line with the brain development, based on brain science findings including a trouble period where babies aged up to 20 months tend to cry due to the excessively rapid brain development. Parents should also be educated about differences between discipline and abuse.
     A large number of cases where children suffered corporal punishment by those other than their parents, including nurses as well as parents’ common-law wives or husbands, have been overlooked. Although the Child Abuse Prevention Act bans abuse by parents alone, a ban on child abuse or corporal punishment should also cover other than parents.
     While the Chiba child abuse case has led the public to pay attention to fathers’ child abuse, 61% of fatal abuse cases in fiscal 2016 were caused by mothers. Therefore, fundamental measures to educate parents and enactment of a home education support law that forms the base of such measures are required.

Shiro Takahashi is an education specialist, a special professor at Reitaku University Graduate School. He is a director of Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.