76% of kids in welfare facilities have suffered child abuse
The Yomiuri Shimbun Feb. 16th, 2011
About 76 percent of those in welfare facilities for the short-term treatment of emotionally disturbed children have been victims of child abuse, with the percentage having doubled from 14 years ago, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
As of the end of November, 1,128 juveniles were being treated at such facilities, abbreviated to “jotan” in Japanese, across the nation. Of those, 853 had experienced child abuse, the survey showed.
Furthermore, about 70 percent of the facilities said they suffer from staff shortages, indicating that staff have been exhausted by taking care of children who have experienced abuse.
Child welfare experts pointed out that the system of managing the facilities needs to be reexamined.
The survey was conducted from November to January through telephone interviews and written questionnaires on the facilities.
In 1996, a national liaison council comprising welfare facilities and other relevant bodies conducted a similar survey on 16 jotan facilities and found that about 35 percent of children in their care had experienced child abuse.
Of the 21 facilities that responded to the Yomiuri survey, 14 said they suffered from staff shortages and cited difficulties in treating children who deliberately harm themselves or are violent towards the other children.
Currently there are 37 jotan facilities nationwide. One facility staff member said, “We used to use group therapy a lot, but these days each case requires a different type of therapy, and this is stretching us to breaking point.”
Many of the children in jotan facilities were brought in via child consultation centers.
Of about 20 children who left such facilities in fiscal 2009, only about eight returned home. Though about eight more were transferred to more mainstream children’s shelters, some children could not adapt to their new lives and came back to the jotan facilities, according to officials.
Asked about measures they wanted authorities to take, more than 50 percent of the facilities cited the need to review and increase staff numbers.
Many facilities also asked for an increase in funds, paid in accordance with the number of children in their care.
Yuzuru Hiramoto, an associate professor of children and family welfare studies at Ashikaga Junior College, said, “Most children looked after in jotan facilities are relatively serious sufferers among those who have experienced child abuse.
“But there are no clear guidelines as to how to treat them, and staff are not in a position to study theories–they just have to cope with the problem by themselves. Because of insufficient staff, the system has to be totally overhauled,” he said.
The jotan facilities look after children with relatively mild emotional disorders, and an inability to control themselves due to bullying, abuse and other problems in their relationships.
The facilities take them in on a short-term basis to give them psychological therapy.
They are set up under the Child Welfare Law, along with children’s shelters which house young people who cannot live with their parents for various reasons.
Currently about 580 shelters accommodate about 30,000 children nationwide.