Parliament: Mental illness, violence seen in one in 10 child safety cases

SINGAPORE - About one in 10 cases of concern over child safety that are referred to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) each year involves parents or caregivers with mental illness and violent behaviour.

This adds up to fewer than 20 such cases a year, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Wednesday.

Depending on the circumstances of each case, the child may be able to remain in his or her parents' care, with safety plans and support services in place, said Mr Chan in response to a question from Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

If this is not possible, MSF will first explore putting the child in the care of relatives, then foster care, added Mr Chan, who is also Second Minister for Defence. Placing the child in a residential home is a last resort.

Dr Puthucheary had asked about the caregiving arrangements for children whose parents or caregivers have been diagnosed with mental illness and who have a history of violent behaviour.

Mr Chan said that "MSF takes a serious view of each referred case that raises concerns over a child's safety".

The Ministry conducts investigations to assess the risks posed to the child's safety and the needs of the child and his or her family. It will then work out an appropriate intervention plan for the family, he added.

Mr Chan added that not all child safety cases are referred or known to the Ministry. He called upon the community to bring potential cases to light by being vigilant and alerting the authorities if they come across children in vulnerable circumstances.

Families facing stress can also seek help early by visiting the nearest Family Service Centre or Social Service Office, he added.

In September, a 32-year-old woman was sentenced to 10 years in jail for causing the death of her only child, in a case that raised questions about Singapore's care system.

Rebecca Loh, an unemployed single mother who had a history of schizophrenia and violent behaviour, had pushed her nine-year-old son Gabriel out of the window of a fifth-storey flat last year.