Child consultation center staff arrests reveal betrayal of girls in their care

It is outrageous that they abused their positions as staffers of a child consultation center to commit indecent acts on girls who were under the center’s care. The rules on dealing with children must be imposed with renewed vigilance and efforts must be made to prevent a recurrence.

Two male employees in their 20s at the center were arrested by the Kanagawa prefectural police on suspicion of violating the Child Welfare Law and other charges over sexually molesting a high school student and a junior high school student who had been temporarily placed in custody at the child welfare center in Yokohama. The men reportedly have admitted to the charges.

The two staff members were not directly assigned to take care of the girls, but they had been in personal contact with the girls through social media after the girls left the center.

One of the girls said, “I want him to advise me,” and the girls reportedly said they didn’t want to destroy their relationship with the staffers. It is said the girls didn’t want to have sexual relationships with the suspects. This is an act of taking advantage of their trust and deeply hurting the girls, both physically and mentally.

Temporary custody facilities take care of children in cases such as abuse or delinquency. Many of them are attached to the child consultation centers and have staff on duty around the clock. It is forbidden for staff to have personal contact with the children in their care outside of work.

The two arrested men were assigned to guiding the children in temporary custody on how to live and study. They were assigned to the child consultation center after only two weeks of on-the-job training. It is likely that they did not have a proper understanding of how to keep an appropriate distance from the children in custody.

With child abuse situations becoming more serious, the number of cases reported at temporary custody facilities is increasing: There were 27,800 cases in fiscal 2019, or 5,800 more than five years earlier. Child consultation centers across the nation are trying to increase the number of staff to solve the staff shortage. Securing the quality of human resources is an urgent issue.

In recent years, a series of indecent acts committed against children by staff members have been uncovered at temporary custody facilities. Their environment, where it is difficult for the outside world to see what is going on, may be one factor behind the incidents.

Attention must be paid to the use of social media by staffers. In response to the arrests, the Yokohama municipal government surveyed all the employees of the city’s child consultation centers and found that in some cases, children had asked them for their individual contact information. It is important to make them adhere to the principle of not communicating with children personally.

Many child consultation center employees are working honorably, but if these incidents continue, trust in child consultation center workers will be lost. They need to do their job with high moral standards so that they do not further hurt children who are already suffering from abuse and other problems.

In the field of school education, a new law has been passed to prevent teachers who committed indecent behavior against children from taking teaching jobs again. In the same spirit, a system must be considered to remove unqualified staff from facilities that are meant to protect children.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 29, 2021.