SIVALA - Caldari State officials have ordered the immediate closure of seven child creches across the Sivala, Yashunen and Iivinen systems after recent inspections deemed them not fit for human habitation. More than three dozen arrest warrants have been issued as a result of the alleged gross negligence displayed by the management and ownership of the closed facilities.
The investigation into creche facilities both planetside and on stations within the border region has uncovered squalid conditions full of malnourished and diseased children. Officials were alerted to the situation in the remote system creches by a short vidclip circulated on public channels over the last two weeks which showed wards of the state living in squalor in a facility later identified as one of the planetside locations closed yesterday. The vidclip's author remains unknown, but the two minute segment shows infants dressed in rag-thin clothes fighting over small scraps of food, with many showing signs of what appear to be untended wounds and advanced stages of communicable disease.
Additional investigations by The Scope have found the situation to be much more pervasive than government officials have publicly disclosed. Visits by independent investigators to more than 50 other creches in border regions around the Caldari State have shown conditions to be equally deplorable. In a system designed to protect and provide for the most vulnerable of citizens, the list of apparent policy violations includes the lack of such basic necessities as hot running water, organized educational programs, regular meals, or access to medical care. According to Sileth Xanta, Director of the Caldari Childrens' Fund, a non-profit social activist group, the situation is "completely tragic ... thousands of children report being abused and beaten every week, or just simply disappear."
Caldari Deputy Minister of Child Services, Vilas Dolat, announced via press release that today's closures are indicative of the kind of action his office routinely undertakes. "We actively promote the well being of the children living within the creche system," he advised. "It is a responsibility we take very seriously, and a thorough investigation by Child Services personnel is conducted in response to every complaint." However, Xanta points out that the Child Services department itself is part of the problem. "Asking CSD (Child Services Department) to police itself is pointless," she explained. "The entire program is filthy ... underfunded and completely disorganized."
The Scope examined public ownership and licensing documents for border zone creches, discovering some alarming trends. More than two thirds of the current operation licenses for facilities in the children's creche system have been issued to corporations whose board of directors includes a CSD official or employee. Checking into the number of children registered as living in several of these creches, a number which provides the basis for how much federal funding each facility receives, there was often a discrepancy of 10 - 30% more children in the reported figures than could be actually found in the creche. While fraud is a serious enough charge in and of itself, Xanta believes something more foul is at work. "These are children that don't have anyone at all to notice that they've gone missing, other than their creche caretakers."
Even including the miscalculation of residents, the creches in border regions are significantly underfunded compared to their core system counterparts. The CSD system provides government funding that is designed to cover 40% of the cost of caring for and raising each child, including educational and vocational programs. The remaining costs are to be covered by donations from private sources and community groups, which has worked well enough in the core systems. However, in the border regions, the extra expense of procuring the necessary equipment and materials in these remote areas has not been factored in to the government's grant, and private donations are as scarce as the population when compared to the standard core system. This funding inequity has resulted in creches being unable to cover the cost of caring for their wards.
Dolat's office was unable to comment on the issue of CSD employees being listed as owning the majority of creches they were obliged to oversee, citing "privacy issues relating to creche licensing agreements" but did assert that the department was moving as fast as possible to address public concerns. "The child creches in the border regions are an important part of the CSD system," an unidentified staff member replied, via email. "The seven creches closed today are not indicative of a larger problem, but are instead sad cases of an underfunded government department not having the resources to actively inspect each location as often as we would like. We'd like to think we give each of the millions of kids in the creche system as much love and attention as a parent would."
Xanta thinks the problem is much deeper than a lack of funding for inspections, noting that there are children "going hungry every day, even in the core systems ... their government is failing them."