Gov’t to expand day care oversight after abuse rises

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Gov’t to expand day care oversight after abuse rises

In response to a recent string of child abuse cases at day care centers, the Ministry of Health and Welfare unveiled a plan yesterday to strengthen its oversight by dispatching personnel to oversee the centers at the site to prevent such abuse.

In addition to the personnel dispatch, the ministry said it will frequently screen teachers for history of abuse or criminal records in order to prevent unqualified teachers from working at the centers.

The announcement of a stern government action against abuse came yesterday following the recent series of child abuse cases that have fueled public concern and anxiety over how their children are treated at day care centers.

One female teacher at a day care center in Busan is now behind bars for allegedly smashing the back of a 1-year-old child, leaving bruises. That the troubled center is a public care center further fueled public anger.

Another abuse case was reported Friday when a teacher at a day care center inside the central government complex in Sejong City was accused of allegedly kicking and hitting a 1-year-old child with a tissue box.

Adding to public mistrust, a joint investigation into 1,000 day care centers in Seoul and Gyeonggi by the Songpa Police Precinct and Songpa District Office in southern Seoul also revealed nearly 10 billion won ($9 million) in public subsidies has been embezzled by day care owners over the past three years.

In a sign of resolution to root out embezzlement practice by day care owners, the ministry yesterday promised up to 10 million won in reward for whistleblowers, significantly more than the current reward of around 3 million won.

“The amount of rewards for reporting irregularities at care centers will increase to 10 million won from the current 3 million won,” said the ministry in a statement released yesterday.

Amid deepening public mistrust, President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday called on related government officials to take stern measures against such irregularities during a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

“It is not acceptable for people responsible for child care to make inappropriate profits using young children,” said the president.

Korea’s first female leader also lamented the practice of sharing an employment blacklist among care center owners of teachers who reported illegal acts to the authorities, so those teachers will not be hired again at day care centers.

“I ask relevant government offices to get to the bottom of irregularity charges by day care centers and take due actions to prevent such acts from ever happening again,” said Park.

President Park also said a joint government inspection by the Board of Audit and Inspection and Prime Minister’s Office and other related government offices might be needed.

Expanding the number of day care centers for working parents was one of the campaign pledges advocated by then-presidential candidate Park in the run-up to the Dec. 19 election last year. In line with the pledge, the Welfare Ministry plans to set up 350 public day care centers by 2017.

By Kang Jin-kyu []
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