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Rationale behind policy of not recognising children of unwed mothers as legitimate children

Question 

Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin 
Nominated Member of Parliament 


To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development: 

(a) what are the past and present reasons underpinning the policy of not recognising children of unwed mothers as legitimate children; 

(b) what are the best avenues of assistance for single unwed mothers who wish to adopt their own child to make them legitimate but struggle to afford the legal fees to do so; and 

(c) how does the Ministry protect the welfare of minors whose single unwed mother died without a will and their status of illegitimacy denies them a share of their mother's assets.

Written Answer

The family is the basic building block of our society. Strong marriages are the key to strong families, and parenthood within marriage is the desired and prevailing social norm. Hence, benefits such as the Baby Bonus cash gift, housing benefits and tax reliefs are provided to families with legitimate children, to encourage births within marriages. Other benefits that support the growth and development of children are given to all children. These include the recently extended Child Development Account (CDA) benefits, as well as education and healthcare subsidies, the Medisave grant for newborns, infant care and childcare subsidies and the foreign domestic worker levy concession.

Those who have difficulty affording legal fees (including unwed mothers who wish to adopt their own child) may approach the Legal Aid Bureau for assistance. Applicants will have to satisfy a means test and a merits test to qualify for legal aid.

Every situation involving an illegitimate child is different. The Government thus considers each case that it comes across, before deciding the appropriate course of action to take. For instance, illegitimate children can inherit their mother’s estate if their mother dies without a will, and has no surviving legitimate children. They may also have other family or social support. These are scenarios where the individual would not need Government support. For children who are vulnerable, MSF’s Social Service Offices will assess their needs, provide financial assistance and coordinate support with other social service agencies, where necessary. If there is clearly no next of kin and the safety of the minor (aged 16 and below) is compromised, my Ministry can apply for a court order to place the minor in an alternative environment.

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Published On Mon, Oct 10, 2016
Last Reviewed On Fri, Dec 9, 2016

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