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Institutional Rehabilitation of Children & Young Persons

Topic(s): Rehabilitation

Read on for guiding principles, strategies, programmes and post-care support for institutional rehabilitation of children and young persons who have committed offences.

Residential Rehabilitation (Youth Residential Service)

The Youth Residential Service administers two MSF Youth Homes:

  • Singapore Boys’ Home

  • Singapore Girls’ Home

Restore Lives, Empower Transformation, Re-Create Future

The mission of the MSF Youth Residential Service is to effectively rehabilitate its youth residents and successfully reintegrate them back into the community.

The Youth Residential Service adopts a multi-disciplinary approach in its rehabilitative work with our youths. Rehabilitation draws expertise from various fields such as social work, psychology, education and criminology.

Principles Of Residential Rehabilitation

The policies, strategies and activities relating to residential rehabilitation of youths are guided by 5 principles.

Youth justice in Singapore, as a whole, is premised on gradated intervention. The approach is to divert youth offenders away from the Court wherever possible. Placing youth offenders on diversionary programmes outside the youth justice system allows them to be accountable for their actions, and prevents disruption in other areas of development such as education. Placement in Homes is considered only as a last resort after family care arrangements and community-based options are ineffective.

In-care rehabilitation starts with reintegration in mind. The youths go through programmes and day-to-day guidance to improve their behaviour, pick up new habits and teach them skills to interact meaningfully with their families and others in the society. The youths would be placed on reintegration programmes once they complete their in-care rehabilitation.

The youths have at least three significant adults whom they can turn to during their stay at the Home:

  • A Youth Guidance Officer (YGO) who works with the youths Personal Mastery at the residential blocks;

  • A Caseworker who builds and strengthens the children and young persons’ socio-emotional development; and

  • A teacher who has undergone training with the Ministry of Education (MOE), and/or a qualified instructor, who supports the children and young persons in their educational pursuits and/or relevant vocational certification

The Home also adopts a relationship-building approach with the youths. By being seen as “trusted adults”, youths have greater motivation to change knowing they are supported by credible adults who believe in them and can fall back on. These help to create a supportive environment conducive for the youths’ rehabilitation.

Every youth is provided with the chance to maximise his/her potential. The care plan and rehabilitation programmes are designed to be relevant to each youth’s circumstances to meet his/her needs. The target set for each youth is personalised depending on his/her risk and needs.

Youths are also put through formal education within MSF Youth Homes. The majority of those who sit for national examinations such as the GCE N and O Levels, attain passes above the national average.

The youths would need to return to the care of their families. The MSF Youth Homes aim to strengthen the youths’ relationships with their families so that the families can continue to care for them and provide proper guidance.

Parents are encouraged to visit the youths from the onset of their rehabilitation in the MSF Youth Homes. Arrangements are made in place for parents who have difficulty visiting the youths. The parents and youths also go through programmes and activities to strengthen their bonds and learn communication skills. Where the opportunities present, family members are also invited to the MSF Youth Homes to witness the youths’ performances, programme graduations or award ceremonies. While under close support from the Homes, youths are also given home leaves to spend time with their families. In addition, the staff engage families through individual sessions to guide them on their parenting and communication skills as well as in setting and enforcing boundaries. Where necessary, families are also linked up with family service centres or other relevant social service agencies for additional support. These efforts help to strengthen the social safety net of the youths as they prepare for their reintegration.

The MSF Youth Homes work closely with partners such as volunteers, social service agencies, schools, and employers to develop a network of programmes and services. These include corporate partnerships to upskill the youths to increase employability; volunteers with value-added skills such as tattoo-removal; community partnerships to deliver art and drama programmes, and mentors to guide the youths.

Rehabilitation Programmes

The holistic rehabilitation and care for youths in the MSF Youth Homes comprise 5 focus areas:

The rehabilitation programmes in the MSF Youth Home reach out to youths at the individual and group levels.

Motivational Programmes

The motivational programmes encourage the youths to rethink the usefulness of their past actions, and to apply thinking and reasoning skills in decision-making. The programmes motivate them to make use of their time to learn and empower them to make the right choices. The key aim of such programmes are to build up the motivation levels of the youths as they embark on their rehabilitation programmes.

Lifeskills Programmes

Youths are equipped with the functional social skills and problem solving capabilities to replace the need to use anti-social means. This allows them to achieve their goals without breaking rules and build healthy relationships.

Specialised Therapeutic Programmes

Needs-specific programmes provide in-depth treatment to improve the youths’ behaviours. The MSF Youth Homes also partner with organisations provide some of these programmes such as offence-specific programmes and addiction counselling.

Development Programmes

Youths also undergo a wide variety of programmes to build up their general well-being and socio-emotional development. These programmes include character building, drama, arts, sports, fitness and song writing.

Befriender Programme

Where necessary, the youths would be matched to a befriender who would support them in their rehabilitation journey. The befrienders help to familiarise the youths with the community, provide advice on their decision-making and serves as a positive role model for the youths.

Formal education is a key component of MSF Youth Homes’ programme. It helps the youths achieve certification in their studies, prepare them to return to the schools in the community and familiarise them for traineeship or employment.

Youth attend academic and vocational classes conducted by MOE-trained teachers and qualified trainers at the Centre for Education (CfE) within the Homes. The areas of focus include:

  • Restoring Self-belief – Help the youths to rebuild and strengthen their belief, self-esteem and confidence that they can do well academically or in vocational training.

  • Strengthening Foundations for Future Learning – The youths attend lessons taught by MOE-trained teachers and curriculum that are similar to mainstream schools. This ensures that they stay on equal footing with the peers in the community.

  • Leveraging Strengths and Interests, Exploring Opportunities – The youths can explore different electives and tasters across the arts, sports, various industries and through values-in-action projects. This broadens their horizon and allows them to identify their areas of interest.

Academic Track

Youths who are returning to MOE secondary schools, Junior Colleges, Polytechnics or Institute of Technical Education are placed on this track. These subjects are offered at Secondary 1 to 5 levels and prepare youths who are on the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams:

  • English

  • Mathematics

  • Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)

  • Humanities (Geography, History, Social Studies)

  • Mother Tongue Languages (Chinese, Malay and Tamil)

  • Selected electives such as Principles of Accounts

The Homes also prepare youths for the GCE ‘N’ Level [N(A) or N(T)] and ‘O’ Level examinations.

Vocational Studies

For youths pursuing Vocational Studies, they can achieve recognised skills certifications in the MSF Youth Homes to prepare them for further vocational training or traineeship in related industries.

Besides equipping them with literacy and numeracy foundation leading to Standards of Attainment at Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WPLN), youths are provided with opportunities to achieve other vocational certifications, such as Workplace Skills, International Computer Driving License, and Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Certificates.

Holistic Development

Education of youths in the Homes strives to be holistic and all-rounded. It embraces the building of character and citizenship through the following:

  • Assembly programmes which seek to inspire youths toward desirable attitudes and values, and imbue them to achieve their aspirations,

  • A Character and Citizenship education programme focusing on the areas of Respect, Resilience, Integrity, Care and Harmony.

  • The key National Education (NE) events which include Total Defence Day, International Friendship Day, Racial Harmony Day and the National Day, are commemorated to ensure that in-care youths are involved in strengthening the nation’s fabric as citizens.

For the all-round development of youths in the Youth Homes, the Homes also plan the following:

  • Learning in the arts and sports with courses tiered at basic and mastery levels to provide knowledge and skills acquisition according to youth abilities and strengths.

  • Enrichment classes in craft and lifeskills are offered where relevant.

Desired values, attitudes and habits of mind such as self-awareness, integrity, responsibility, decision-making, teamwork, care and empathy, together with circle time and reflection processes, are woven into these courses and classes.

The MSF Youth Homes provide the youths with a structured environment for them to learn, reflect and do better in lives. They are supported by Youth Guidance Officers (YGO) who help them learn the importance of having good and useful habits and structures. These include respectful communication with others, being responsible for duties assigned, and emotions management.

The YGOs work closely with caseworkers, who counsel the youths and work with their families. Together with the teachers who deliver the academic and vocational programmes, they form the 3 key persons guiding the youths and serving as their positive role models.

The restorative approach and practices are deployed to help youths understand consequences in relation to their choices made, attitude and behaviour shown. This is balanced with affirmation of good behaviours and strengths when youths demonstrate them. When the youths have built the right habits, structures and self-discipline, they would then be better prepared for successful learning and living as they reintegrate back to the community.

These programmes include counselling and workshops to support parents and other significant persons in the lives of the youths. The programmes include induction programmes, Functional Family Therapy, Family Connection Sessions, and individual family engagement sessions. Parents are also invited to attend components in the therapeutic programmes to gain awareness on how they can reinforce the rehabilitation efforts outside of the Homes.

Supervised Access to Community

Learning in the authentic family and community settings is important. Recognising this, as youths progress in their rehabilitation in the Homes, they are granted home leave or placed on the day release scheme to spend time with their families and attend school in the community respectively. These youths are required to return to the MSF Youth Homes after their home leave or after classes. The MSF Youth Homes keep in touch with the youths’ parents and school to monitor their progress and provide guidance.

Post-Care Support

For a smoother transition and better reintegration of youth into the community, the MSF Youth Homes are working to provide post-care support for one year for youths discharging from the Homes. The intensity of the support would be tiered according to risks and needs of the youths. Phase 1 of the post-care support has commenced, and it will be progressively expanded to include every youth discharged from MSF Youth Homes. MSF will work with appointed social service agencies to assign post-care officers to journey with the youths in the community and link them to constructive sources of engagement such as school, employment or/and interest groups, so that they can develop stable and healthy relationships.

The post-care support will help sustain and reinforce the work done (e.g. skills learnt and habits formed) with the youths during their stay at the MSF Youth Homes. It also strengthens the connection with community agencies that were established while the youths were residing in the Homes.

The post-care officers would also collaborate with key stakeholders, families and volunteers to monitor the youth’s progress and ensure that the youths remain meaningfully engaged (e.g. in school, training, and employment).

Rehabilitation Process

Youth Rehabilitation Process

Rehabilitation of youths is designed with reintegration in mind. Every youth has a care plan developed which would be reviewed periodically. At the onset, youths would undergo motivational programmes to prepare them for learning during in-care. These in-care learning would include life-skills programmes, therapeutic programmes, educational programmes, self-discipline and character building.

As they progress well and complete their in-care learning, youths will be prepared for reintegration. The Homes would liaise with the families, schools and other touch points in the community to prepare the youths for their steps back to the community.

For a smoother transition and better reintegration of youth into the community, the MSF Youth Homes are working to provide post-care support for one year for youths discharging from the Homes. This supports them in continuing the progress they made in the Homes and improves their chances of leading socially-responsible lives. Families who require additional support would be linked up with community resources prior to the youths’ discharge.