Suffer the children

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Suffer the children

An established, half-century-old orphanage has been mistreating the children it’s supposed to care for both physically and emotionally, according to investigation and report by the National Human Rights Commission. It is shocking to learn that a social welfare facility is accused of serious crimes against vulnerable children who had nowhere else to go. Even more appalling is that the institution got away with it for years - and was even given awards for its work with children by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

According to the finding by the National Human Rights Commission, children in the care of a foster home based in North Chungcheong Province were terrorized regularly with beatings and other maltreatment. Children between the ages of four and 18 were beaten with wooden and plastic sticks and those who defied the authorities were made to eat raw garlic and chili peppers. Some were confined to prison-like solitary confinement. Some were stuck in solitary confinement for long periods and considered suicide.

What’s lamentable is that the institution’s mistreatment and disgraceful ways avoided the scrutiny of higher authorities for years. The local government authorities never stopped by to examine the facilities or talk to the mistreated children. It received complaints about beatings by some teachers in 2010, but didn’t take action. The authorities did not look for signs of abuse during routine facility checks in 2011, the commission said in its report. The human rights watchdog said the state authority merely examined how the facility was spending public funds due to its own lack of expertise and resources about child care.

There were also few protections against child abuse. A local child care shelter and counseling center was under the same ownership of the foster home and was headed by the orphanage head until March. Law enforcement authorities must verify how the home won the highest ratings for welfare facilities by the government after two field investigations.

The case shows that our awareness of children’s rights and welfare is still undeveloped. We can’t distinguish between discipline and abusive. Apart from the prosecution investigation into the home in the news, law enforcement authorities look into all foster care centers. We should promise our most vulnerable children that they will not be abused.

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