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CHILDREN

Foster kids still abused in Sweden: report

Children being cared for in foster homes and state institutions in Sweden continue to suffer from abuse, violence and sexual abuse, according to a forthcoming report.

Swedish municipalities admit that children placed in such institutions suffer to extent that “is not insignificant.”

“Every instance of abuse is clearly a catastrophe,” Sara Roxell, a project leader with the Swedish Association and Local Authorities (SALAR), told the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.

The newspaper has reviewed survey responses from municipalities included in a government restitution inquiry looking into measure to address past abuses suffered by children while in the care of the state.

Back in 2006, the government launched an investigation to shed light on widespread allegations of abuse suffered by Swedish youngsters while under the care of the state during the 20th century.

According to commission's findings, originally presented in January 2010, 61 percent of women and 42 percent of men were subjected to sexual abuse during their time in foster homes or orphanages.

In light of the original inquiry's findings, the government launched a new restitution inquiry to propose a process for admitting the state's past mistakes and making amends with those who suffered abuse.

The commission was also charged with examining whether those who suffered abuse ought to receive economic compensation and proposing measures to ensure that abuses aren't repeated.

The inquiry, which will present its findings to the government on February 10th, found that abuse at state institutions for children aren't a thing of the past, but continues to take place now.

According to the inquiry, Sweden still lacks procedures for preventing, discovering, and addressing both abuse and neglect, the newspaper writes.

“For me, this came like a bolt of lightning. We must be able to guarantee that the children we place aren't subject to abuse,” Dario Espiga, the Social Democratic chair of the social resources committee with Gothenburg municipality, told the newspaper.

Roxell wants municipalities to come up with measures to reduced the risk that children suffer from poor treatment while cared for at state institutions.

Follow-up and supervision of foster homes and institutions also needs to improve, she said.

“The social services aren't where the child is. Therefore regular visits to the homes in which they are placed are needed,” said Roxell.

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HEALTH

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study

Swedish researchers say acupuncture "appears to reduce crying" in babies suffering from colic.

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study
File photo of a five-week old baby. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

But their work was criticized by colleagues in the medical field, with one calling the study methodology “appalling”.

A duo from Lund University's medicine faculty tested the traditional Chinese needle-piercing remedy in a trial involving nearly 150 babies between two and eight weeks old.

They reported their results in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, published by the BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Compared to babies who did not undergo the needle treatment, infants who received acupuncture over two weeks exhibited “a significant relative reduction” in crying, the team found.

Such research can be controversial. Acupuncture is invasive, potentially painful, and its benefits are not universally accepted.

Organizations such as the British Medical Acupuncture Society says it is used to treat muscle and postoperative pain, as well as nausea.

But some think acupuncture's effects are that of a placebo, meaning people feel better because they believe it works. The National Institutes of Health, the main UN research agency, says there is “considerable controversy” around its value.

Colic affects as many as one in five families, and is diagnosed when a baby cries for more than three hours per day on more than three days per week.

Why it occurs is not well understood. Indigestion, trapped wind and intolerance to cows' milk have been identified as possible causes.

For the study, colicky babies were divided into three groups of 49. One received “minimal” acupuncture treatment, while another was given up to five 30-second needlings per session. The third group was not given any needle treatment.

“Significantly fewer infants who received acupuncture continued to cry/fuss excessively,” the researchers concluded.

This suggested “acupuncture may be an effective treatment option” for babies crying more than three hours a day.


File photo of an adult person receiving acupuncture. Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Criticism of the study was harsh. David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, described the researchers' analysis of data as “incompetent” and “appalling”.

The study “certainly doesn't show that it [acupuncture] works”, he told the Science Media Centre.

“What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying? The idea sounds bizarre. It is.”

Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter said the study showed “almost the opposite of what the authors conclude”.

“We know that colicky babies respond even to minimal attention, and this trial confirms that a little additional TLC” – Tender Loving Care – “will generate an effect”.

A total of 388 acupuncture treatments were performed on the babies, the authors reported. On 200 occasions the infant did not cry at all after being pierced, 157 times they cried for up to a minute, and 31 times for more than that.

“The acupuncturists reported bleeding (a single drop of blood) on 15 occasions,” the authors said.

The treatment “may be considered ethically acceptable” if it managed to reduce excessive crying in the longer term, they added.

The report did not indicate what acupuncture points were used.

Article written by AFP's Mariètte Le Roux.