Forum: Undetected abuse of young kids worrying

The unit of Block 52 Chin Swee Road, where a two-year-old girl’s remains were found in a pot on Sept 10, 2019.
The unit of Block 52 Chin Swee Road, where a two-year-old girl’s remains were found in a pot on Sept 10, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The news about the trial of the parents accused of abusing and caging their five-year-old child, which eventually led to his death, is shocking.

Separately, there was the case of the two-year-old girl who was allegedly killed by her parents and whose remains were found in a pot in a Chin Swee Road flat - five years after the fact purportedly.

It has been reported that child abuse spiked last year to 1,163 cases (Child abuse cases jumped 30% to record high in 2018, March 17). Of the cases the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Child Protective Service investigated last year, just under half involved children under the age of seven. Half involved physical abuse and about one in five cases involved children being sexually abused.

MSF said that over the years, it has introduced more rigorous screening tools for child abuse and trained professionals, such as social workers, educators and health personnel, to spot abuse and get abused children appropriate help. This has led to a growing number of cases being investigated, which is commendable.

The Straits Times reported that while the number of cases probed has been rising, social workers said that most of the abuse they see came to light after it was reported by a counsellor, social worker, teacher or medical professional, rather than a family member.

One area of concern is that between the compulsory vaccinations in a child's first year and the seventh year, when a child is expected to be enrolled for compulsory schooling, a defenceless young child abused in the privacy of a home could go undetected for many years.

Perhaps the authorities could consider exploring a way to reach out to families of young children, who perhaps may not be seen by teachers in a pre-school, to ensure they get the necessary support if they face difficulties.

This could be, for example, via a free annual health checkup for young children, which could be useful for all families.

Some means to reach out to young children could help prevent the suffering of more innocent and defenceless lives.

Lam Yin Yin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2019, with the headline 'Undetected abuse of young kids worrying'. Print Edition | Subscribe