When parents turn child abusers, violence and neglect can be prevented via training and public vigilance
No child deserves to suffer any form of abuse. Like most people in Hong Kong, I was totally appalled and heartbroken by the horrific child neglect case which went to court last month (“Mother jailed for 15 years for starving seven-year-old daughter in ‘grotesquely shocking’ child abuse case”, June 29).
The case has triggered heated discussion as to whether penalties for child neglect should be increased. While I trust that an increase in penalty may serve as a deterrent to child abuse, sadly, this will not fully solve the problem and prevent future suffering.
It is more important to enhance public vigilance and alertness against child abuse, and improve the reporting mechanism in schools, so that child abuse cases can be identified as early as possible, and intervention and support can be provided in a timely manner (“Neglected 7-year-old child may not live past 20, Hong Kong court hears”, June 28).
According to the Social Welfare Department’s statistics on newly reported child abuse cases from January to March 2018, 65.2 per cent of the abusers, or 152 of a total of 233, were parents. It is incredibly alarming that over half of the abusers are actually parents. To address the issue, it is imperative that we focus on educating parents on how to parent without violence or neglect.
In light of this, we strongly urge the government to allocate additional resources to promote parenting education, in particular for high-risk groups and vulnerable families. We hope the newly established Commission on Children will discuss the issue of child abuse in Hong Kong and review related policies as soon as possible. In the longer term, the government should establish a mechanism to enhance the communication and collaboration of relevant government bodies to address the issue more effectively.
At Save the Children, we have been working closely with local NGOs to provide positive parenting training to parents from vulnerable backgrounds. We will also publish this year an updated edition of the book titled Positive Discipline: What It Is and How to Do It.
In addition, together with our supporters, we plan to enhance public awareness of the parent-child support hotline (at 27551122) operated by our partner, Against Child Abuse (ACA), by launching a new round of advertising this autumn. Our efforts aim to share information and knowledge for parents, carers, teachers, and other people working with children on how to discipline children without violence.
Together, let’s do our utmost to protect children and ensure they have a happy and healthy childhood.
Amy Fong, chief executive, Save the Children Hong Kong