Rare family outing for kids whose parents were jailed

For most of the two little girls' lives, a glass pane separated them from their father whenever they met.

Yesterday, Mr Mohd Farook was able to hug and take photographs with his eight-year-old twin daughters and wife - in their first family outing in six years.

He was just released from jail last week for drug-related offences.

"I was very excited (about today) but also sad that I missed a lot of these moments, and that I never got to see my daughters grow up," said the 39-year-old.

His family was among 60 people who visited Gardens by the Bay yesterday, as part of an excursion organised by non-profit group Industrial and Services Cooperative Society (Iscos) and recruitment company RecruitFirst.

Most were children aged seven to 12, with one or both parents who have been in jail.

Research has shown that children of incarcerated parents are eight times more likely to offend than the general population, noted Ms Durga Naidu, 25, a senior social services executive with Iscos.

This is why the group works to prevent inter-generational offending by focusing on the home environment, student development and building family support.

Added Ms Durga: "Family members may not have enough time for their children, who might lack a positive role model and parental guidance if the remaining parent is busy working to support the family."

Ms Jacelyn Chua, group business leader for RecruitFirst, hopes the outing will help the children "not feel restrained by circumstances".

Many are approaching their teenage years, which she considers an "age where they make or break easily".

Incarceration can change the lives of inmates' families completely. Madam Kamaliah Abu Bakar, 39, was pregnant with a third child when her husband went to jail more than four years ago.

She declined to elaborate on the nature of his offence as her younger children - aged between four and 12 - do not know.

"My life changed," said the production operator. "I found a job after not working for five years and looked for someone to care for the children."

Financial constraints were among her biggest challenges.

Events organised by Iscos - there are up to seven such outings a year - give her a chance to spend quality time with her children.

"When I come home from work, it's late and they are often already asleep. We don't have much time to talk about school and their problems," she said.

VIDEO

Family time for children of offenders, http://str.sg/4MPP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Rare family outing for kids whose parents were jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe