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Child protection officials admit they didn’t do well

Date Posted: 2007-07-05

Better late than never, the Prefecture Health and Welfare director is beginning a review of poor decisions that may have cost the life of a young boy.

The eight-year-old American boy, Jordan D Peterson, died at the US Naval Hospital Okinawa several months ago after being beaten. He was living in Uruma City with his mother, sister and stepfather at the time. The stepfather was under investigation by Okinawa police in connection with the beating death, but has been released for lack of evidence.

The black cloud hovering over whether the boy’s life could have been saved traces to an Uruma City woman who saw the news stories about the death and came forward to tell officials she had seen the youngster months before, that he was troubled, and that she had called authorities to investigate. Last November 27th, the woman saw the boy barefoot and without clothes, bleeding from his face and his body black with bruises. She took him to a store to buy him clothes, but he told her “No, no, I can’t wear the clothes. My stepfather will be angry with me.”

The woman then called the child protection office to help, only to be told they couldn’t, and for her to call police. Japanese police responded, only to pass the case to American Military Police, who returned the boy to his home without any investigations. A June 29th Prefecture Assembly members meeting brought new demands for an investigation.

Terumi Iha, the Prefecture Health and Welfare Director, is on the hot seat, admitting a lack of caring on the part of her staff members.

Iha, who is also Director of the Children’s Support Center, now admits his staff goofed. “I’m sorry about this. Now I know we were wrong. We should have kept records.” She told the Prefecture her office had received the call November 27th, but since it was after office hours, the staff member didn’t take all information for making an investigation or a report. Instead, the Child Protection Center said “Maybe you can call to the police”.

“Why we didn’t take good care about the lady’s phone report? I don’t know. We should have known something is wrong. Just the fact of it being cold weather November 27th and a report of a child who didn’t have clothes, we should have gone to his home and checked up and interviewed him.”

Iha says “it might have saved his life,” adding “I think we have to do something in a correct way.” She is promising a full investigation, and will ask investigators to start all over again.

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