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More safe havens on the way for abused, neglected children in S’pore

SINGAPORE — Four new homes catering specifically to children who have faced traumatic experiences will be built, adding to the efforts in recent years to boost the pool of safe havens for children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused.

More safe havens on the way for abused, neglected children in S’pore

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said his ministry will inject S$7 million in the next four years to enhance the quality of care for children in out-of-home care, such as residential homes. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — Four new homes catering specifically to children who have faced traumatic experiences will be built, adding to the efforts in recent years to boost the pool of safe havens for children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused.

In announcing the new homes yesterday, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that while there has been much progress in catering to the needs of children in such predicaments, the primary objective is still to reunite them with their families, where possible.

Speaking at the Rehabilitation and Protective Care Conference, Mr Tan said the four new homes, called small group homes, will be located within existing children’s home premises and provide more targeted and intensive care that children who have had traumatic experiences typically need. About 15 to 20 per cent of children placed in out-of-home care — because of abandonment, neglect or abuse — belong to this group.

Mr Tan also said that his Ministry will inject S$7 million in the next four years to enhance the quality of care for children in out-of-home care, such as residential homes. The money will be for on-site coaching by experienced professionals, covering areas such as preventing crisis, and managing behaviours and trauma.

During his speech, Mr Tan gave an update on the progress in out-of-home care in recent years. Since 2013, the number of foster parents has increased 77 per cent, which allowed 46 per cent more children to be placed — from 309 to 450.

But stressing that the “ultimate goal” is to reunite as many children as possible with their own families, Mr Tan said out-of-home care must be a “last resort” put in place only if there are safety concerns.

“In my day-to-day interactions with Singaporeans and their children, it has become clear to me that the natural family will always be an integral part of a child,” he said. “This is why ... we should ensure that children are not kept apart from their own families unnecessarily.”

This was why the family reunification service was launched last year to help children in out-of-home care return to their families. Under the programme, parents learn parenting skills, how to improve the way the family functions, and get practical and emotional support.

Singapore Children’s Society’s Ms Gracia Goh, who leads a team of workers to provide such services, said: “There’s a lot of training that has been invested into this group of professionals for us to engage the families in very difficult conversations ... to help them care for the children again safely and in a sustainable way.” Another programme, called the family preservation service, aims to help children who are at risk of being removed from their families stay on in their own homes.

Since February, more than 100 children and their families have started receiving help under these programmes. Mr Tan said the number is expected to grow to 400 in the next three years.

“The value of a child being in a family — having a strong sense of belonging, being loved, being cared for, having people to take care of them and give them all their attention — helps (them) to ... grow well,” added Ms Goh.

Themed Enhancing Capabilities, Empowering Lives, the conference yesterday focused on strengthening the professional capability of employees in Singapore’s out-of-home care sector, to improve the quality of care for children in need of care and protection. It was attended by more than 450 individuals from more than 60 organisations, including voluntary welfare organisations, family service centres, schools, hospitals, the police, and the courts.

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