A number of cases of child abuse recently prompted the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to issue a statement explaining all the laws and government policies that aim to protect children.
The more publicized of these cases included a six-year-old girl in Taichung who was left in a school bus by accident for several hours and died from the heat, and a one-year-old girl in Tienmu, Taipei, who was thrown from her family's 11th-floor apartment by her mother after a quarrel between the woman and the child's father.
These tragedies shocked society and the government.
The media's interest in these cases has raised two issues: discretion when it comes to reporting news stories that involve minors, and whether social policies are comprehensive enough to protect children from harm.
Wang Mei-en (
"Once issues regarding child safety are more publicized, the public is going to care about these issues more, which is definitely a positive thing. However, sometimes, the media's aggressive digging for news, which may involve asking hard questions of minors themselves, is a negative result," Wang said.
Wang said she knew of a child-negligence case in Taichung where a TV reporter barged into the home of the children and asked many invasive questions that traumatized the children.
"These children had already been traumatized by a negligent parent, and what the reporter was doing was hurting the children all over again," Wang said.
The Children's Welfare Law (
"However, in some news reports which come with images, a mosaic will simply be placed across a child's eyes, and whoever does that expects no one else to be able to identify this child," Wang said.
Tsai Beng-yuan (
"The media have to do their reporting in a way that no one may know who the child in the report is," Tsai said.
According to statistics collected by the National Police Administration, the number of reported cases of child abuse rose from 4,466 in 2001 to 5,049 last year.
"The economic downswing and increased unemployment affect overall society and children's safety," Wang said. "If a parent is unemployed and an alcoholic, the children might not be very safe in such a home. Our child protection policy has a good reporting infrastructure, but lacks specialists who pay attention to potential child-abuse cases."
Wang said that teachers, social workers and nurses were in the best position to look out for children and report any suspected child abuse.
"However, because of the lack of confidentiality in our system to protect the people who tip off authorities, many teachers, or people who have specialized interactions with children, dare not report any potential cases," Wang said.
Furthermore, Wang also pointed out the shortage of social workers in general.
"The social workers have so many cases to deal with that they don't have any time to look into potential child-abuse cases; the turnover rate among social workers is high," Wang said.
Tsai attributed the shortage of social workers to the inflexibility of the government's human services system.
"As society is undergoing a structural change, government has to reallocate its resources according to new societal needs, which is challenging as a government body is less flexible with its human resource management than private enterprises are," Tsai said.
Tsai explained that as public servants are usually given a specific task to perform, training specialized professionals can be problematic.
"Each public servant has a specific job, because the system has been set up to safeguard public servants' rights, so developing professionalism in a specific field is difficult. Professionals who deal with such [child abuse] cases cannot be `trained,' but rather have to grow professionally with experience," Tsai said.
Despite the challenges faced by the government's management, the MOI is going to great lengths to help children by giving out professional licenses to social workers and establishing "113," a help line that aims to protect the safety of children and women that is linked to a immediate response system.
Furthermore, an annual "marriage day" might actually be marked on the Taiwanese calendar.
In a meeting with Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (
Kao and the Taiwan Happy Marriage Association (
In response to Kao's proposal, Su said that a marriage day was a definite possibility.
"I agree that a happy marriage is the cornerstone of a sound society ... the MOI will first gather the public's views on this issue, and follow up accordingly," Su said.
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