A large majority of Japanese municipalities are struggling to confirm children's safety within 48 hours due to a recent surge in the number of abuse reports, a Kyodo News survey showed Tuesday.
It found that more than 80 percent of 69 major municipalities across the country with child welfare centers have not always followed the guideline set by the government one year ago, requiring them to verify child abuse reports within the time frame.
The government has been stepping up efforts to increase interventions by the welfare centers, but the outcome of the survey, conducted in June, suggests that the facilities do not have enough human resources at their disposal to deal with the increasing reports of suspected child abuse.
In the fiscal year through March 2018, those centers had to handle more than 130,000 cases of suspected child abuse.
In the survey, 66 gave valid responses, and 59 of them said they have gone over the time limit in some cases despite the government demanding them to adhere to the 48-hour principle.
The reasons the municipalities gave for needing extra time to check children's safety included prioritizing alerts provided by schools or others that they felt were more urgent, and in some cases, the parents in question were no longer with their children for one reason or another.
The city of Kawasaki had a case that took 123 days to finish checking, the longest among all cases. It explained that it took so long because the child was not attending a nursery school, so it had to confirm the child's safety through health checks and home visits.
The central government requires child welfare centers to conduct on-site inspections if they cannot confirm the safety of children by other means.
But 23 of the municipalities surveyed said they find it difficult to meet the requirement.
The government previously only stated that checking on children's safety within 48 hours was "desirable" under a child welfare center operation guideline. But it upgraded it last July to a principle following the death of 5-year-old Yua Funato in Tokyo's Meguro Ward.
The girl died in March last year after having made desperate written pleas for her parents to "forgive" her and stop mistreating her.
The incident was followed by the death of 10-year-old Mia Kurihara in Chiba Prefecture this January due to suspected physical abuse by her father.