The number of deaths from serious child abuse last year fell to its lowest in five years, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday.
After several reports of serious child abuse over the past few months sparked a public outrage, the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee asked government agencies to report on their child protection programs and regulations.
The number of child or adolescent deaths caused by serious abuse was 15 last year, lower than the previous four years, which ranged from 18 to 31 deaths a year, ministry data showed.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
About 70 percent of the victims were under six years old and about half were under three, the data showed.
Several lawmakers questioned why the data showed annual increases in the number of child abuse reports over the past three years to reach 59,936 last year, even as the number of annual registered cases fell.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that the increase was caused by heightened public awareness, but added that after eliminating repeat cases and evaluating them with standard safety assessment indicators, about 31,000 to 35,000 registered cases remained. The total last year was about 33,000 cases, he said.
When Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked whether the deaths were among the registered cases, Chen said that over the past five years, about two-thirds of the abuse cases that resulted in death went unreported until the victims died.
The “dark figure” is incredibly high, showing that there are flaws in the ministry’s child abuse report mechanism and the safety assessment indicators, Chiang said, adding that the ministry should find the problems and resolve them immediately.
“We are planning an active warning system, using an information system to help discover most probable cases of child abuse in children under six, which can reinforce the passive reporting mechanism,” Chen said, adding that children under six are less capable of protecting themselves, so hopefully the warning system can help prevent the risks.
The ministry’s Department of Protective Services Deputy Director Lin Wei-yan (林維言) said that the warning system would determine high-risk families by evaluating indicators such as children who do not have National Health Insurance for more than a year or school-age children who are not enrolled, adding that the system would become operational by June.
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