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Type: Official Speeches: All, Official Speeches: Desmond Lee

Topic(s): Children & Families, Residential & Shelter Support, Social Service Agencies & Partners, Protection from Domestic Violence

A very good evening
Mr John Lim, Chairman of the Children’s Aid Society, 
Mr Alvin Goh, Executive Director, 
Board Members, 
Ladies and Gentlemen.


Good evening. It is my privilege to join you at Children’s Aid Society’s (CAS) Dine for Good event. 

2     Children’s Aid Society has a rich history spanning over 120 years, making it easily one of Singapore’s oldest philanthropic organisations, an organisation that has remained true to its original calling. As social reformer Frederick Douglass once said, I quote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And in a sense, in Singapore, families remain the bedrock of our society. 

Families as the bedrock of society

3     Children deserve to love and grow up in strong, wholesome families because strong families enable strong children. A safe and stable home environment enables our children to grow up into resilient individuals and realise their full potential. Unfortunately, that is not the case for some children. For those who experience abuse, neglect, or are struggling with family and social issues, they need even more support to help them overcome their trauma and to flourish. Ultimately, the work of our society is to ensure that there are families for every child to take care of, whether the natural families, or the community as a family. 

4     Over the years, the Government, in partnership with social service agencies, has put in place an ecosystem of support for children and families who need the additional help. We have also amended significant laws, such as the Family Violence Amendment Bill which was passed in Parliament in July this year, to strengthen protection for survivors of family violence, hold perpetrators of family violence to account, and enable their rehabilitation. These are important developments. Protecting our children’s safety, especially in the family setting, is the foundation on which progress can be made.  

5     Indeed, this year is the Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners, and on behalf of all my colleagues, the government and the Ministry of Social and Family Development, I appreciate and affirm the dedication and commitment of agencies like CAS, who work tirelessly to improve the lives of many families and children. 

Importance of CAS’ Role in the Social Service Sector

6     Over the past 120 years, CAS has touched many lives and brought about positive changes to families and their children. In Melrose Home, CAS supports children in need of care and protection to get past their adverse circumstances. To date, Melrose Home has provided a safe haven to over 6000 children, while Melrose Care provides subsidised counselling and specialist therapy to families facing multiple stressors, serving about 200 children, youths and families in the community at any one time.

7     Let me share a story of Amanda (not her real name). Amanda, an 11-year-old girl, was admitted into Melrose Home in 2021 after her parents inflicted excessively harsh punishment on her. With the support and the encouragement of the team from the Home, Amanda developed new coping skills to manage her past trauma. She gained greater interest in her studies and performed better in school. Melrose Home also engaged Amanda’s grandparents and relatives in family work to rebuild trust and strengthen bonds within the family. This has empowered Amanda’s grandparents with confidence in providing care to their granddaughter.  I am very happy to know that Amanda has been successfully reunited and reunified with her grandparents in May this year.

8     Success stories like these are a testament to the hard work and dedication of the CAS team. This field of work is incredibly difficult. Both child protection and the support ecosystem of organisations like CAS provide that level of support, care and love to children who really face very difficult circumstances. The work is sometimes aggravating, very stressful. I’ve seen some of my colleagues at work, followed them along, and I note that it takes a tremendous amount of love to carry through, provide shelter and a safe haven for these children. 

Looking Ahead

9     As CAS celebrates their ‘Beyond 120’ anniversary, they have shared with me their vision for Melrose Village, and I’ve visited Melrose Village maybe five times and each time, sensing that optimism and hope through their vision for Melrose Village for a better place for the children. This will be a purpose-built facility, where the children can look forward to a smaller home-like setting and still continue to be supported with counselling and psychological services, and therapy to heal and build empowered and resilient children, youths and families. But for this village to become a reality, CAS needs all your support, your time and your encouragement.

10     I would like to thank all of you here this evening for your generosity towards the wonderful work of the CAS. Let us continue to support them, partner them to build Melrose Village, and nurture and transform lives together.

11     With that, thank you, and good evening.