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Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010


Protecting children from abuse

A panel of the Legislative Council of the Justice Ministry has proposed revising the Civil Law so that parental prerogatives can be suspended for up to two years if doing so is desirable to protect children from neglect or abuse by their parents. The government hopes to submit a revision bill to the Diet next year.

According to the welfare ministry, child consultation centers handled more than 44,000 cases of child abuse in fiscal 2009, a record number and about 40 times more than in fiscal 1990. Under the current system, heads of child consultation centers can ask family courts to deprive parents of their parental prerogatives if they are misusing their parental prerogatives or misconducting themselves to an extreme degree. Under law, the deprivation is permanent.

In fiscal 2009, there were only 21 cases of deprivation of parental prerogatives. This is because child consultation center heads, fearing that the permanent deprivation could totally destroy the child-parent relationship, are reluctant to go through the legal process. The introduction of the temporary suspension of parental prerogatives will enable workers at child welfare centers to flexibly cope with cases of neglect and abuse. It is hoped that the proposed system will effectively strengthen protection of children against neglect or abuse.

Under the proposal, children themselves, relatives, public prosecutors or legal guardians of minors can ask for permanent deprivation or temporary suspension of parental prerogatives. If the situation improves, they can ask for nullification of the decisions against parents. If the situation does not improve, they can ask for extension of the suspension. More than one person, a child welfare center or a nonprofit organization will be allowed to serve as a guardian of and manage the property of children whose parents' parental prerogatives have been taken away or suspended.

In using the new system, child welfare workers must do their best to help parents rectify their behavior and to restore child-parent ties. They should keep in mind that legal steps are not a panacea.

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