Published on 20 March 2023
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim asked the Minister for Social and Family Development for cases of suspected child abuse referred by schools to the Child Protective Service (CPS) (a) what is the procedure for investigation of such cases when the child is not attending school; and (b) in what circumstances will the CPS insist on an in-person assessment of such child or exercise its investigative powers including those under the sections 9, 10 and 12 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1993.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Social and Family Development how does the Child Protective Service make known its services to young children who may be suffering physical or mental abuse by their parents or caregivers and may not have access to telephones, the internet or any other persons outside their home to report the abuse.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Social and Family Development what are the conditions or triggers that will mandate a face-to-face meeting between children and officers from the Child Protective Service, either at home or outside of home, in cases of suspected abuse by parents or caregivers.
1. MSF’s Child Protective Service (CPS) investigates cases involving serious abuse or neglect of children and young persons in accordance with the statutory framework set out under the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA). The threshold for CPS to exercise various powers under the Act is predicated on whether there are “reasonable grounds to believe that a child or young person is in need of care or protection”. The fact that a child is not attending school is not, by itself, sufficient grounds to invoke CYPA powers. This is because non-attendance could be due to many other reasons.
2. To determine if a case meets the legal threshold under the CYPA, CPS will gather information from the child, family and professionals via phone or video call. If the assessment is that there is immediate or serious safety concerns for the child, or when parents or caregivers are uncooperative, CPS will conduct an in-person assessment of the child and the family. CPS may also order a child to undergo assessments, examinations or treatments, or remove the child and commit him/her to a place of temporary care and protection or to the care of a fit person. CPS must balance multiple conflicting interests when determining what is best for a child. CPS is careful in exercising its powers and will only remove a child if it is not possible to keep the child safe within the family.
3. For less serious cases, CPS will refer the child and family to a Child Protection Specialist Centre, Protection Specialist Centre or a Family Service Centre for follow-up intervention as necessary.
4. The nature of child abuse is that it is often not easy to detect. The professionals in CPS and the social service agencies work very hard to intervene to prevent further harm, and the fate of every single life matters to them. Despite their efforts and that of others at the various touchpoints that children come into contact with, it is not possible to expect that they will be able to detect every single case. I hope members of this House can support the difficult work that they do in your communities, and to rally your residents to play their part too.
5. They can support the “Break the Silence” campaign and attend Domestic Violence Awareness Training. Through these, members of the public are educated on potential signs of child abuse or neglect. Everyone can benefit from such knowledge, whether as a neighbour, a community volunteer or a grassroots leader. Those who see such potential signs are encouraged to report their concerns to the National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment (NAVH) at 1800-777-0000.
6. We are also educating our children on this difficult topic of abuse in an age-appropriate way. Pre-schoolers are taught how to talk about their feelings and seek help from trusted adults when they feel unsafe or hurt. In schools, students learn about personal safety and safeguarding themselves against abuse through their Character and Citizenship Education lessons. They also learn help-seeking skills, including the “Signal for Help” hand gesture. They are shown the community resources and helplines for them to turn to when their safety is compromised. They are also encouraged to look out for their peers and seek help for those who display signs of distress.