Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Social and Family Development

Teen's attitude and behaviour changed after going back to family

When a 13-year-old boy from a children's home was reunited with his family last year, he returned to a home with only a faulty fan, a small table and a rice cooker.

His parents and younger sister slept on the cold hard floor, devoid of any mattresses.

Besides lacking in material things, his parents were also ill-equipped to manage Bryan (not his real name).

Three years ago, Bryan was sent to Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home. He had Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), would not listen to instructions and acted up by throwing tantrums or hurling vulgarities.

His father had spinal cord injuries and could not hold down a job.

His mother was a part-time fast food server and had to care for his sister who has special needs.

The family also often moved from one rental flat to another.

But at the children's home, Bryan was unhappy as he missed his family. Every few months, he would flee from the home and stay in shopping malls and amusement arcades.

Last September, Ms Betty Lim, chief executive of the children's home, found out the family had got a Build-To-Order flat in Sengkang. She swiftly made arrangements to reunite him with his family and provide support for them.

Their home was furnished with donated items such as curtains, cupboards and beds.

Ms Lim and her staff also found the mother a job as a clerk. The family was referred to other community agencies for financial aid, food rations and counselling.

Bryan received tuition from the children's home.

Its staff also visited the familyto equip the parents with better parenting skills.

Bryan's mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Soon, 35, said: "Their support was crucial in helping us take that first step in creating a stable environment for Bryan.

"His principal told me they have seen a 180-degree change in Bryan's attitude and behaviour."

"He no longer shows the symptoms of ODD and takes the initiative to help out with household chores," she added.

Ms Lim said: "Family integration is very important and a lot of children long to go back home but their parents are not ready or able to manage them.

"They need more support," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Teen's attitude and behaviour changed after going back to family'. Print Edition | Subscribe