Early intervention scheme helps almost 300 kids from vulnerable families

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan speaking at the Integrated Child Health and Social Congress on June 4, 2018.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan speaking at the Integrated Child Health and Social Congress on June 4, 2018.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - An early intervention scheme that helps young children from the time they are born till age three has reached out to almost 300 kids from vulnerable families and their mothers, helping the kids in their development and equipping the adults with better parenting skills.

The Temasek Foundation Cares Kids Integrated Development Service 0-3 (Kids 0-3) provides a community health and social care support system for children from disadvantaged families. It also guides mothers during the antenatal stage and beyond.

Set up four years ago, Kids 0-3 is led by KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) and the AMKFSC Community Services. It receives funding from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) under the KidSTART programme.

A study conducted earlier this year on the 283 children helped by the programme found that they showed improved language and cognitive abilities, compared to those involved in a 2015 KKH study on families from challenging socio-economic backgrounds.

There was also a higher immunisation rate, meaning more are getting vaccinated based on the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

The study also found that some 98 per cent of parents showed affection - physical closeness and positive expressions - towards their children, while 96 per cent were responsive to their children's emotions, interests and behaviour.

Speaking at Singapore's first Integrated Child Health and Social Congress on Monday (June 4), Adjunct Associate Professor Winnie Goh, programme lead of Kids 0-3, told The Straits Times: "If you are faced with challenging situations and there are people who journey with you to overcome these challenges, you are likely to develop resilience."

"The Kids 0-3 programme will continue to provide opportunities to these families after their children turn three, by leveraging other existing programmes and services in the community," said the senior consultant of the division of medicine at KKH.

The three-day congress, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel from Monday to Wednesday, brings together professionals from the health, social and early childhood sectors.

It is part of the efforts taken by Kids 0-3 to create awareness of the importance of cross-sector coordination and collaboration of services in supporting the development of children from vulnerable families.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan told the congress: "A comprehensive ecosystem of support for the child and family is necessary to address the multiple stressors that face disadvantaged families."

Senior principal social worker Yogeswari Munisamy from the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Child Protective Service said stress can influence how a family copes and functions, and can also affect how children's needs are met. "A range of targeted social and system intervention will be needed," she said.

Miss Lee Wei Qi, 30, a senior child resource coordinator with the KidSTART programme by the Early Childhood Development Agency, said some parents she has worked with had a communication barrier with their children.

"We give parents practical tips on how to communicate with kids, to go down to the kids' level and be involved in their play," she said.