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Stronger protection for children from Q2 2020 under the Children and Young Persons Act

STRONGER PROTECTION FOR CHILDREN FROM Q2 2020 UNDER THE CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS ACT

1. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will bring the first set of amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) into effect in Q2 2020. Parliament had passed the Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Bill in Sep 2019, to strengthen Government and community support for children aged below 18 years, up from below 16 years today.

Key amendments with effect from Q2 2020

(i) Enhanced care and protection for more children

2. MSF and the Courts can currently intervene swiftly to provide care, protection, supervision and rehabilitation to children below age 16. From Q2 2020, abused or neglected children aged 16 to below 18 will also be able to receive care and protection under the CYPA.

3. MSF and partners will extend its services to serve abused or neglected children aged 16 to below 18 after the amendments take effect.

4. The Courts will also be able to grant Enhanced Care and Protection Orders (ECPO) to children aged below 18 years. This may occur in instances where the Court has assessed that the family will not be able to care for the child safely, and the child has remained in out-of-home care beyond a specified duration. The ECPO will empower designated caregivers to make day-to-day, as well as more substantive decisions, such as overseas travel or choice of school, similar to the decisions that parents would make in a normal family setting. This will enable decisions to be made in a timely manner, and minimise disruptions to the child’s daily routine and well-being. ECPOs, which can last until a child turns 21 years old, will enable stable out-of-home care arrangements to be put in place for the child.

5. We are working closely with the Family Justice Courts to implement the ECPO by Q2 2020. About 100 to 150 children are expected to benefit from the ECPO per year. 

(ii) Foster parents to receive childcare leave benefits

6. When the amendments take effect in Q2 2020, childcare leave benefits will be extended to foster parents. With the leave benefits, foster parents who work will be able to utilise the leave to meet their caregiving needs, for example to bring their foster child to visit a doctor. These changes will benefit over 5301 foster families, and are part of continued efforts to strengthen support for our foster parents. 

(iii) Introduction of Family Guidance Orders

7. ‘Family Guidance Orders’ (FGO) will replace the term ‘Beyond Parental Control’. This change in terminology makes clear the role of the family, as opposed to focusing the blame on the child. In addition, families are to complete a family programme before they decide to file an FGO application. This programme seeks to improve parent-child relationships that may be strained, and is intended for families where the child is below 16 years2 . (iv) Changes to treatment of youth criminal records.

8. The treatment of criminal records will also change for youths who complete their Youth Court Orders. To facilitate our youths’ reintegration with society, their criminal records will be deemed as spent. This allows them to declare ‘no’ if asked whether they have ever been convicted or have a criminal record. 

Amendments to take effect in stages

9. The remaining amendments such as the change in age limit of youth offenders from below 16 to below 18 years will take effect at a later date, to allow our stakeholders more time to build up the requisite capacity and capabilities. 

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