130 Little Cries ～Study 1. Introduction～
When Keiichi-chan suddenly died at Takenozuka Baby Center, the predominant view among those involved was that he was unlucky. Notwithstanding the prevailing atmosphere, Keiichi-chan’s parents kept insisting that “Keiichi’s death was not caused by an accident or congenital problems, but was rather a consequence of inadequate government policy on childcare, and specifically of the poor quality of childcare at the nursery.”
In conducting this study, we came to realize that their contention was well-founded. When we grouped together fatality cases which had been disposed of as unrelated individual cases, we discovered that the 130 deaths were not caused by simple accidents or individual problems. Rather, they exhibited a common tendency and shared common characteristics, suggesting that they reflected a serious social problem.
Our investigations led to the following conclusions:
1. Infant fatalities at nurseries occur across the country in surprisingly large numbers.
2. Nearly all of fatalities occur at private non-licensed nurseries. In recent years, fatalities at so-called “baby hotels” [flexible-schedule day-and-night nurseries] have increased sharply.
3. Most fatalities occur to infants under 5 months of age, and the predominant cause of their deaths is suffocation while sleeping face down. Accidental deaths of children over one year of age are caused mostly by drowning or falls.
4. Fatalities often occur while infants are sleeping. Most nurseries pay relatively little attention to procedures for monitoring children during their sleep periods.
5. Fatalities often occur while caregivers are not present in the nursery room, and the proportion of this type of death in all cases of fatalities is very high.
6. Nurseries’ patterns of response to fatalities are poor. They show no eagerness to investigate the causes of deaths and draw lessons from them.
7. The response of government agencies to infant fatalities is consistent in that they either ignore them or take steps to avoid publicity in the interest of self-protection.
These conclusions became apparent only after the details of the 130 tragic fatalities were collected and analyzed. They clearly reveal to us, the survivors, the realities of childcare in this country.
We continued our investigations in an effort to give meaning to the lives of these many children who died prematurely. We believe that we must speak loudly of the results of these investigations and draw useful lessons from them.
In what follows, we will reflect–considering the results of our study–on the questions of: (1) why fatalities continue to occur, (2) what aspects of childcare practices need special attention, and (3) how we should deal with fatalities once they occur.
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