Along with several other groups promoting children’s rights, the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) yesterday protested the downgrading of the government authority in charge of children’s affairs, urging the government to do more to protect children.
“Children’s welfare and protection is a very complicated issue that involves different government institutions — including the judicial, welfare and even economic authorities — so we would like the government to have an institution that could help integrate and coordinate efforts to protect children’s rights,” TFCF executive director Betty Ho (何素秋) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday morning. “We are quite worried that the government authorities in charge of children’s affairs are not high enough in the administrative hierarchy to handle everything.”
Ho was referring to the dissolution of the former Children’s Welfare Bureau under the Ministry of the Interior in June as part of the latest administrative restructuring. Matters originally handled by the bureau are now shared among various subdivisions of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Ho said the nation’s birth rate is now the lowest in the world, but the incidence of child abuse has reached a record high in the past two years, with about 20,000 children abused every year.
The Bureau of Children’s Welfare was a specialized, third-level central government bureau. However, authorities now handling child protection matters are below the third level and are not specialized organizations.
TFCF social resources director Liu Hsiu-feng (林秀鳳) agreed.
“People nowadays are having fewer children, the population is aging and the average salary is on the decline,” Lin said. “If we don’t put more effort into helping children and juveniles now, the future of our society is quite worrisome.”
The groups said that in many European countries, such as the UK, Germany, France and Sweden, children’s affairs are handled by second-level administrative organizations, while in the US, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, third-level government authorities are in charge.
“We should not fall behind these countries,” a TFCF press statement said.
Since July, as many as 360,000 people — including government officials and business leaders — have signed a petition to support the TFCF’s call.
The Control Yuan issued corrective measures to both the central and local governments in June in response to poor coordination among agencies in dealing with cases of abuse, saying there is an urgent need to improve both vertical and horizontal communication and to establish a committee under the Cabinet, Ho said.
“The children and youth rights promotion committee could act as a platform for facilitating communication between different government agencies,” National Taiwan University social work professor Cheng Li-chen (鄭麗珍) said.
“It would be a mistake to assume that a low birth rate has rendered the concentration of resources for children’s welfare unnecessary. On the contrary, building a children-friendly environment would encourage more people to have babies,” Cheng said.