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August 22, 2017

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It doesn't seem like Taiwan loves its kids

The following is a statement by Dr. Lu, an intensive care unit specialist at National Taiwan University Hospital:

Having worked in a pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) for nearly 20 years, I have seen many children transferred to our ward after they have already been reported three or even four times to be living in an abusive environment.

If those children had come here without any recorded instances of suffering child abuse in the past, then I would get it, it would have meant our system had not yet worked well enough to notice their cases. However, these are children whose situations have been noted and reported on multiple times, and they are still coming to the ICU with complex injuries — some are even dying with paralysis or are braindead in a vegetative state. How is this possible?

A lot of times, when a social worker or volunteer sees an injured child, they will not see it as the result of abuse. They will tell us that the kid is lively, that the mother appears to be loving and that the family seems to get along just fine.

Do we really need to wait until the child is covered with wounds, their life obviously threatened or them starved to near death before we start looking at this as child abuse?

When a professor from the child protection department of the Seattle Children's Hospital visited two years ago, he told me that Taiwan was strange. He wondered how the custody rights of parents could outweigh the children's rights to life, and how the system could allow some children to die so easily.

We have been talking about the low birth rate in Taiwan for almost 10 years, and have held national affair conferences to discuss child protection issues, yet child abuse reports remain idle, filed away.

Those Who Should be Protected Have Been Preyed Upon

On June 4, an 8-year-old who had been receiving help from child protective services was beaten to death by his mother and her partner. The child had been receiving this "help" for a month already, but it did no good. The size of the gaping hole in the system is beyond imagination.

The child abuse situation in Taiwan is so outrageous that the nation could be considered an uncivilized society. Last year, the number of people under the age of 18 who died after they were reported to be suffering from domestic abuse reached a record high of 127, meaning that an average of 2.4 children died this way every week.

In 2016, approximately one case of child abuse was reported every 10 minutes, totaling to a number of 55,000 suspected cases for the year — and in 17 percent of these, social workers deem it necessary, after one-on-one discussion, to officially intervene and provide counseling, according to Department of Protective Services statistics. The rate of new cases has dropped slightly since 2015, but the death rate has surged by almost 100 percent.

And even among those who survive, problems are rife, such as an increased likelihood of criminal behavior.

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