Troubled homes: Help for families to reunite

At the dinner yesterday were (front, from left) former minister S. Dhanabalan, patron of The Salvation Army; Mr Tan Chuan- Jin, Social and Family Development Minister; Colonel Lyndon Buckingham, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army; and Mr Bill
At the dinner yesterday were (front, from left) former minister S. Dhanabalan, patron of The Salvation Army; Mr Tan Chuan- Jin, Social and Family Development Minister; Colonel Lyndon Buckingham, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army; and Mr Bill Foo, chairman of The Salvation Army Singapore Advisory Board.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Social workers will counsel each family, teach parenting skills and monitor progress

For children who find their way to The Salvation Army's Gracehaven residential home, returning home may be many months or years away.

Aged between seven and 16, they could be from abusive or broken home environments, or they may be deemed by the courts to be beyond parental control and placed with Gracehaven.

But from April this year, more help has been given to reunite parents with their children.

For selected children in Gracehaven's care who fulfil certain criteria, a dedicated pair of social workers will work with their families over a six-month period. The social workers will provide counselling, teach parenting skills and link the families to other community resources.

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Following this, the children and their families will be reunited, with the social workers monitoring them over another six months.

The new initiative is part of a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) pilot called Safe and Strong Families (SSF), which started early this year, and provides families with home-based intervention so parents are better equipped with parenting skills to provide a nurturing home for children. Parents and children must agree to enter the programme.

Emphasising the role of SSF, a programme he announced in Parliament last year, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday: "I believe families are the fundamental building blocks in our society and children grow up best in families."

Speaking during a Salvation Army fund-raising dinner held at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, Mr Tan said: "When a child is removed from his family due to abuse or neglect and comes into out-of-home care... he is still very much a part of his natural family.

"We should do whatever we can to enable the child to be reunited with his family in a safe and timely manner, when they are ready."

SSF is expected to help 400 families and children over a three-year period.

Besides The Salvation Army, there are seven other agencies under the pilot. They are AMKFSC Community Services, Boys' Town, Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home, Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre, Montfort Care, Muhammadiyah Welfare Home and the Singapore Children's Society.

Besides calling for donors to lend their support, Mr Tan yesterday also called attendees to volunteer their time in community work. The Salvation Army, which has been in Singapore for 82 years, plans to raise around $7.9 million this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Troubled homes: Help for families to reunite'. Print Edition | Subscribe