Authorities save 12-year-old boy isolated by father for years

01/16/2021 03:10 PM
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Chang Ching-li (right), head of New Taipei city
Chang Ching-li (right), head of New Taipei city's SocialWelfare Department. CNA photo Jan. 15, 2021

New Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) The authorities in New Taipei broke into a home in the city's Yonghe District earlier this week to take emergency custody of a 12-year-old boy who had been kept out of school and isolated from society for years.

The boy, who has lived with his father since the age of 2, has never attended school and has been isolated from the outside world in the Yonghe residence, Chang Ching-li (張錦麗), head of the city's Social Welfare Department, told a news conference on Friday.

Chang added there are also very real concerns about the physical well-being of the child who weighs only 19 kilograms, has only 12 teeth and is less than 1.1 meters tall.

A policeman investigates a residence in Yonghe District in New Taipei on Saturday where a boy was kept and not allowed to leave for years. Photo courtesy of New Taipei City government
A policeman investigates a residence in Yonghe District in New Taipei on Saturday where a boy was kept and not allowed to leave for years. Photo courtesy of New Taipei City government

According to Chang, the local authority first wrote to the father five years ago when the boy was not attending elementary school, but he ignored them. The social services became involved in the case in November 2019 and shortly thereafter sought the assistance of local prosecutors and the police.

The police tracked down the father and ordered him to report to a local prosecutors' office in October 2020 as he traveled abroad a lot and had a number of residencies, the department said.

However, after visiting the office, the father transferred his son's household registration to Pingtung in an effort to prevent the New Taipei local authorities from tracking him down.

The local authorities later learned the move had been a ruse and finally located the child in an apartment in Yonghe on Tuesday.

When police and social workers broke into the apartment, the child was alone, sitting on a sofa covered with a thin quilt despite the cold weather that day. The residence had an unpleasant odor and was poorly kept, Chang said.

The boy was immediately taken into custody after a determination was made that he was not being properly cared for and kept in conditions that had seriously impacted his physiological development, Chang added.

Rejecting the department's decision, the boy's father petitioned the local court for the return of his child on Wednesday.

According to local media reports, the father said he had kept his son out of school to "protect him" and to prevent him "being bullied."

The court rejected his petition, citing the poor living conditions of the residence in which he was found and his failure to let the child attend school.

The court also noted that the child appeared to have not been properly fed and to eat directly from the fridge when hungry.

According to Ou Jen-hao (歐人豪), head of New Taipei's Education Department, an application will be made to extend the boy's placement in a foster care facility.

A residence in Yonghe District in New Taipei where a boy had been kept and not allowed to leave for years was found by police on Saturday to be a mess and have a foul odor. Photo courtesy of New Taipei City government
A residence in Yonghe District in New Taipei where a boy had been kept and not allowed to leave for years was found by police on Saturday to be a mess and have a foul odor. Photo courtesy of New Taipei City government

Looking to the future, the child's physical and mental development will be evaluated by the educational department, Ou said, adding that he will then attend classes that suit his educational level.

The city government said that keeping the boy in custody is a last resort and social workers will continue to seek the father's cooperation and understanding.

(By Sunrise Huang, Shen Pei-yao, and Chung Yu-chen)

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