At least 429 people at care homes for children with disabilities are suspected to have been abused by their parents or other adults, a Mainichi Shimbun study has found.
The care homes for children with disabilities are established based on the Child Welfare Act. In principle, the facilities provide medical services to the disabled under the age of 18 and support their everyday activities. While the government tracks the status of children at ordinary care homes for children requiring state protection due to abuse or other reasons, the care homes for the disabled have not been covered in government research.
The Mainichi Shimbun has sent out surveys to all of the 169 care homes for children with disabilities across Japan, and 136 of them -- home to a total of 2,643 children -- responded.
The results showed that 429 of the children at 84 care homes were suspected of having been subject to abuse as judged by facility staff, based on accounts from child consultation centers of how the children had been taken in protection. In addition, of the 7,190 adults at adjacent care facilities, 43 had experienced abuse.
Of the 472 people at such facilities, child consultation center investigations and doctor diagnoses indicate 120 may have become disabled due to abuse, and 102 of them have both serious intellectual and physical disabilities -- the most severe disability category. A total of 94 had partial paralysis or intellectual disabilities caused by cranial injuries.
Regarding the types of abuse (multiple answers permitted), 285 people were neglected, 181 were physically abused, 16 were subject to psychological abuse and six were sexually abused. Reasons behind the abuse according to the care homes include the victim's illness or disability for 134 people, mental illnesses of their parents or guardians in 70 cases, their parents or guardians' disabilities in 62 cases, economic hardship at 52 cases, and unwanted pregnancies in 24 cases. By age group, 188 children aged 6 to 12 had experienced abuse, along with 138 children aged 13 and 17, and 56 children aged 3 to 5.
Akira Otsuka, a social welfare professor at Sophia University in Tokyo who has served as senior specialist in child-rearing and welfare for the disabled at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, says the study result reveal an "extremely serious" situation.
"There are more people at the care homes who have experienced abuse than I expected. Special support is needed according to the types of disabilities, and the government should do research on the matter to grasp the reality of the situation," Otsuka commented.