Another child has been seriously hurt after being left alone at home. In the past four weeks four children, including the three-year-old rescued yesterday from a burning flat, have been injured after being left unattended by their parents. At times like this, we feel pity for the children and outrage at the parents. But we should be wary of rushing to judgment. Some like to blame society and the government for failing to provide enough child-care and resources for families; others fault the parents for being irresponsible. In most cases of child abuse or neglect there are elements both of individual irresponsibility and government failure - allowing critics room to pick and choose facts and evidence to support their positions. All the while, children continue to get hurt. It is not yet clear from the information available why the three-year-old boy's 20-year-old father and the man's 17-year-old girlfriend left him alone at home before midnight. Firefighters believe a cigarette which had not been properly stubbed out caused the fire, in which the child suffered serious smoke inhalation. The couple have been arrested and police say cane marks were found on the boy. If criminal charges are laid, it will be for the courts to determine the facts and whether there is any criminal responsibility. Welfare services and low-cost day care, including emergency care, are available to low-income parents who need them. Many government-subsidised centres offer high-quality services and trained staff that are as good as, if not better than comparable private-sector, for-profit services. But there are not enough of these centres. Efforts must be made to help parents make suitable and safe-care arrangements for their children when they are not around. Hong Kong is an affluent society. We can afford more of these centres - they are an investment in our children. It is well known that children who suffer abuse and neglect can experience life-long mental and developmental problems. Those may end up costing society more. Nearly one in 10 child abuse cases reported to the Social Welfare Department involves neglect. A substantial proportion of these cases involved children left at home alone. Because of the recent home-alone cases, which have been widely reported, there have been calls for explicit laws against abandoning children at home to be enacted. But while we consider whether there is a need for new legislation, the focus should be on making sure there are sufficient child-care services available to families which need them. It is especially important to ensure affordable services are available to the poor. There are those who argue that existing child protection laws are inadequate, but no matter how tough we try to make them, there will always be parents who abuse and neglect their children. In recent years, children's welfare groups such as Against Child Abuse have performed an admirable job in raising awareness of the issues. Early this month, it organised another campaign to raise awareness in Tuen Mun, with children walking around the town centre wearing signs reading, 'Don't leave me at home'. This message needs to be spread more widely. Some behaviour is punishable by law; others are discouraged by social disapproval. Both deterrents are needed. But the provision of adequate child-care services is also needed if the problem of children being left alone is to be overcome.