Cases of abandoned babies rare in Singapore

Retiree Tay Kim Sia showing how he found a newborn boy buried with a plastic bag around his neck in a roof-top garden in Eunos in 2011.
Retiree Tay Kim Sia showing how he found a newborn boy buried with a plastic bag around his neck in a roof-top garden in Eunos in 2011.SHIN MIN FILE PHOTO

Only 21 dumped between 2006 and 2015, as pregnant women in distress have other options

Cases of abandoned babies remain relatively rare in Singapore, with just 21 babies found dumped by their parents between 2006 and 2015.

There were no cases last year, and just two such cases each year in 2013 and 2014, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) told The Sunday Times.

The issue resurfaced after an 18-year-old was sentenced to two years of probation on Feb 4 for leaving his newborn son in an SG50 bag outside his parents' flat last year.

The young father tried to pass the newborn baby off as an abandoned baby.

His 14-year-old girlfriend had given birth to the infant in a toilet. The couple did not know what to do with the baby.

OPTIONS FOR HELP

People have their family, friends and help agencies to turn to to find some support... They don't need to reach that extreme stage of desperation to abandon their baby.

MS JENNIFER HENG, director of Dayspring New Life Centre

In dumping the child outside his parents' home, the father hoped that they would take in the child and raise him, without finding out about the baby's parentage. But the 18-year-old later confessed that the baby was his.

The baby is now being cared for by the maternal grandmother.

Babies are classified as abandoned if the authorities are unable to locate the parents after investigations. The MSF says that when an abandoned baby is found, the police will investigate, and the ministry's Child Protection Service will initially place the baby under its foster care service.

If the child's parents are located, the ministry will assess their ability to care for the child.

If the parents are not found, or they are deemed to be unable to provide "appropriate care" for the baby, the child will be put up for adoption.

In quite a number of cases of abandoned babies reported in the media, investigations found that the mothers were working in Singapore as maids.

One case widely reported in 2011 was of a newborn boy who was found buried with a plastic bag knotted around his neck in a roof-top garden in Eunos.

The boy's mouth was stuffed with mud and leaves, but he was found alive by a passer-by. His mother, an Indonesian maid, 28, was later sentenced to six weeks in jail for child abandonment.

It is an offence to abandon a child. Those found guilty of the act can be jailed for up to seven years and/or fined.

Social workers who help women facing a pregnancy crisis say the number of abandoned babies here remains very small.

Ms Jennifer Heng, director of Dayspring New Life Centre, said this is in part because abortion is available to women as an option. But there are also support services to help women in distress come to terms with what to do with their pregnancy, such as placing the baby for adoption or raising the child themselves.

"People have their family, friends and help agencies to turn to to find some support," she said. "They don't need to reach that extreme stage of desperation to abandon their baby."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'Cases of abandoned babies rare in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe