SINGAPORE - When Andy (not his real name) was just 14 years old, a stressful school environment, peer pressure and a difficult relationship with his family led him down a path of drugs, fighting and theft.
He was eventually caught and sentenced to spend two years in the Singapore Boys' Home by the Youth Court.
His stint at the new Singapore Boys Home has helped turn his life around, said Andy, and now the 16-year-old is preparing to enter the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). He hopes eventually to become a chemical engineer.
He was speaking to the media at a preview of the new home last Friday (Nov 19) before its official opening on Monday.
The new premises were opened by Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli, with Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling in attendance.
The home, which had been in Jurong West Street 24 since 1999, was relocated to Bulim Drive - also in Jurong - and has been operating there since November 2019.
It has 257 beds - close to the number in the previous site - split across five residential blocks.
The residents are mostly between the ages of 14 and 16 who are in conflict with the law and/or those under family guidance orders or in need of care and protection.
Last year, the home admitted 83 boys, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) website.
Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua said at the opening that the relocation of the home, which has an in-house school, has allowed Singapore to "shift a gear up in youth rehabilitation".
The home, which now has an indoor sports hall and is decorated with colourful murals, is meant to support lasting positive changes in residents' behaviour and attitudes, he added.
Mr Masagos said MSF cares but cannot support residents on its own.
He said: "Family and community involvement remain key to the residents' successful rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
"I encourage more partners to join us to bring out the best in our residents, to nurture and build lives together."
The new home has an expanded parents' visitation wing, with a counselling room for family therapy sessions.
The home has partnered social initiative SportCares to start a football programme for residents, and with organisations such as Bettr Barista Coffee Academy to give residents new skills, MSF said.
Mr Chua described how the home's approach to helping its residents reintegrate into society has changed.
He said: "Before the turn of the century, the home's focus was to ensure residents were equipped with hands-on skills so that they could find jobs and secure a livelihood after their discharge."
Over the last decade, the approach has evolved, and MSF established a school within the home so that residents can continue their education, he added.
The centre for education was set up in 2013, and is staffed by Ministry of Education teachers who volunteered to be seconded to the centre.
It is equipped to offer core O-level and N-level subjects such as English and mathematics, as well as vocational studies, so residents can sit the national examinations.
Andy, a school dropout, credits his case workers in the home as well as the new facilities for creating a conducive environment for him to find and pursue an interest in furthering his education.
He said: "At first, hearing stories about fights and other things at the old home, I was quite anxious about coming in."
"But since coming here, I've found that everyone is very nice, and my relationship with my family has improved."
When asked why he wants to be a chemical engineer, he replied: "I was reading a booklet on courses at the ITE and I came across the subject, and I just knew that was the path for me."
He took the N levels last year and passed all his subjects, scoring an A in science and a B in English.