Mr Christopher de Souza
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what safeguards are currently in place to provide for better detection and management of child abuse cases and what more can be done to prevent the number of such cases from escalating.
Ms Sun Xueling
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) what are the mechanisms put in place for early intervention of possible child abuse where young children under the age of five are placed in the care of parents who have a history of drug abuse or mental illness; and
(b) whether the Ministry will consider an inter-Ministry monitoring effort for children who are at risk of child abuse to prevent such abuse before it happens.
Every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment free from abuse and neglect. Apart from taking upstream measures to strengthen families, my Ministry’s Child Protective Service has invested in strengthening the capabilities of our partners to detect abuse and intervene appropriately. For instance, we have over the years introduced better screening tools and training for professionals such as teachers, social workers, and healthcare workers to pick up early warning signs and either connect the families with community-based help, or escalate the case to the Ministry for intervention.
In our intervention in a case of child abuse or neglect, we strike a balance between keeping the family together, and ensuring the immediate safety of the child. Where feasible and the safety of the child is not compromised, we prefer to keep the family together. For such cases, we would work with the relevant professionals and the child’s family to put in place a safety and case plan. Such a plan could include having a suitable family member as the main caregiver to watch over the child, or the family taking steps to ensure the alleged perpetrator does not spend time alone with the child. If the child’s caregiver has mental health or substance abuse issues, we would refer the caregiver for treatment. The aim is to minimise the risk of future harm to the child. In serious instances, we would have to make the difficult decision of removing a child from his home and placing him in alternative arrangements such as kinship or foster care.
The monitoring and combating of abuse is done at the policy and planning level through the Inter-Ministry Workgroup on Child Protection. Operationally, the National Family Violence Networking System enables close collaboration and management of abuse among my Ministry, the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Prison Service, the Courts, hospitals and Family Service Centres. My Ministry also monitors high-risk cases such as siblings of abused children, and partners with professionals to put in place a safety and case plan for soon-to-be delivered babies in families with a history of abuse. We will continue to work with the community to strengthen the preventive and monitoring efforts for at-risk children.
There were instances where child abuse went undetected and unreported. To address this, we have invested in public education and outreach efforts to encourage members of the public to report to the ComCare Call helpline at 1800-222-0000 if they are aware of child abuse or if a child is at risk of being abused.