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Over 20% of abused children at hospitals have no homes or places to accept them: poll

The Central Government Building No. 5 that houses the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is seen in this file photo taken in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo on Oct. 14, 2015. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

More than 20% of the 1,781 children admitted to 395 medical institutions in Japan last year over suspicions they were abused remain there because they have no home or other place to accept them, a survey has found.

The survey by private research firm PwC Consulting LLC found 399 children remained in the institutions with nowhere else to go in a state referred to as "social hospitalization." Of these, nearly 20% are believed to have disabilities or other problems requiring medical care. A total of 15 children have been at the institutions for at least a year.

Experts say that because there is a problem with the physical and mental development of these children, the facilities housing them need to ensure they have access to good medical care and therapeutic education. They also say urgent support is needed for parents who can't raise their children.

The survey, conducted in January and February this year, targeted 935 hospitals around the nation with pediatric wards, and 395 of them replied, making for a response rate of 42.2%. A total of 5,116 of the children those institutions saw last year were suspected to have been abused, and 1,781 were admitted to the facilities.

Of the 399 children with no other place to go, 231 had been at the institutions for under 15 days. However, another 54 had been there for at least 15 days but less than a month; 54 for at least a month but less than half a year; 11 for at least half a year but less than a year; and 15 for a year or more. Details on the remaining 34 children were not available.

Details were provided for 133 children who had been at the institutions for at least 15 days and the survey showed about half of them had been admitted at the age of less than 1. Sixty-nine of the cases involved neglect, 22 damage to the head from physical abuse, and 20 psychological abuse. A total of 60 of the children with no other place to go, or a little under 20%, had disabilities or needed other medical care, the survey showed.

The biggest reason for the children becoming "socially hospitalized" was that they needed medical care or consideration, but there were no openings for them at medical facilities for disabled children or other nursing facilities. There were also cases in which child consultation centers and those rearing the children were unable to reach an understanding.

Yuko Ishizaki, a pediatrician at Kansai Medical University Medical Center who was involved with the survey, commented, "Children in hospitals lack connections with their families and other necessary parts of the developmental process, which greatly affects the formation of human affection. Accepting the fact that children including those with disabilities are being socially hospitalized, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare should promote collaboration between its bureaus for welfare for disabled children, hospitals, and child-rearing support, and set about finding places to accept these children and providing support for their parents."

(Japanese original by Asako Kamihigashi, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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