3 July 2017
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development in light of reports that single unmarried mothers have to adopt their biological children to "normalise" a family nucleus (a) how many cases have been handled in the past five years; (b) how many of such cases have been rejected; and (c) whether the Ministry will review its policy to help the children of these mothers to enjoy the same rights as that of a married couple.
From 2012 to 2016, my Ministry assessed five applications from unwed mothers to adopt their biological children. One mother subsequently withdrew her application, while the Court granted the adoption order to the remaining four applicants.
Unwed mothers do not need to, or benefit more from government policies and schemes if they adopt their own children. Singaporean children have access to a range of government benefits that support their growth and development, regardless of their parent's marital status. These include the Medisave grant for newborns, infant care and childcare subsidies and the foreign domestic worker levy concession. In addition, all Singaporean children have access to social assistance, education and healthcare subsidies.
Last year, we reviewed and extended the Child Development Account, or CDA benefits to children born from 1 Sep 2016 to unwed parents. Unwed mothers of children born from 1 Jan 2017 are also now eligible for Government-Paid Maternity Leave. These benefits will support the child's developmental needs, and the parent's efforts to care and provide for the child. We also introduced the KidSTART programme last year, which will proactively identify low-income and vulnerable children aged 6 and below. These may include children of unwed parents. KidSTART will help to provide them with early access to health, learning and development support, and monitor their progress during their early years.
Benefits such as the Baby Bonus cash gift and housing benefits are meant to encourage parenthood within marriage, which is the desired and prevailing social norm in Singapore. They are not extended even if an unwed mother adopts her own child.
Unwed mothers do adopt their own children, but for personal reasons. Our law places the child's welfare and interests at the heart of an adoption decision. We must not forget that such an adoption is a life-changing event because when an unwed mother adopts her child, the duties, obligations and liabilities of the biological father are terminated. In other words, there is no longer a parental relationship between the child and his or her biological father. The child would also not be able to seek maintenance from the father under the Women's Charter. An unwed mother who intends to adopt her own child may wish to seek legal advice to fully understand the implications of an adoption order.