TSU — Mie Gov. Katsuyuki Ichimi claimed on July 11 that “there was not a single case” of suspected abuse among some 1,100 at-risk children in the prefecture subject to regular safety checks — a comment that drew an immediate caution from the head of a hospital with a “baby hatch.”
Ichimi made the comment at a regular press conference in the Mie prefectural capital Tsu, following emergency status checks on 1,100 children listed as requiring regular home visits after abuse reports or consultations with prefectural child welfare authorities. The emergency checks were prompted by the recent arrest of Rieko Nakabayashi, 42, on suspicion of assault causing the death of her third daughter, 4-year-old Honoka.
Takeshi Hasuda, director of Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto, said of Ichimi’s comment, “There may be children whose abuse was not detected. I hope that the governor will be cautious about so assertively stating that there were no such cases.” Jikei Hospital operates a baby hatch for parents to anonymously drop off infants they cannot raise themselves.
Honoka Nakabayashi had been left at the Jikei Hospital baby hatch shortly after her birth. Hasuda pointed out, “Each of these 1,100 children are being monitored because of their circumstances. Children who feel abused may think the governor’s statement means, ‘They won’t help me.'”
In response to Honoka’s death, the prefectural government included thorough visual safety checks in its emergency measures. On this, Hasuda commented, “Sometimes there are scars in places that are difficult to see. A quick glance is not enough to confirm a child’s safety, so I hope that a practical method will be devised to make sure they (the visual checks) don’t become a mere formality.”
On Hasuda’s points, Gov. Ichimi said, “I did not intend to send out that kind of message. I think there are various forms of abuse, so we will make extensive observations, including of smells.”
(Japanese original by Taeko Terahara, Tsu Bureau)