Spotting child abuse: Guides to help those working with kids

The Sector Specific Screening Guide and Child Abuse Reporting Guide were launched by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Nov 27, 2018. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

With instances of child abuse on the rise, two guides have been published to help teachers, social workers and other professionals detect potential cases.

Launching the guides on Tuesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said they provide a common framework for assessing child-safety concerns.

He was speaking at a conference held by the National Family Violence Networking System, which enables an integrated management of family-violence cases by involving the police, hospitals, prisons and social service agencies.

Mr Lee said: "Beyond setting up the infrastructure, systems and protocols for agencies to work better together, we have also focused on building up our knowledge and skills so that we can better support the victims of family abuse."

The Sector Specific Screening Guide is for professionals in contact with children such as teachers, doctors and social workers. The Child Abuse Reporting Guide is for those more familiar with child-protection issues, such as school counsellors and medical social workers.

Ms Kristine Lam, 28, manager of Care Corner Project StART, one of Singapore's three family-violence specialist centres, said: "The guides give clear definitions, categories of situations and thresholds of the situations that would lead professionals to reporting the situations. In the past, when to report a situation was not as clear."

For example, if a child younger than seven is injured by a family member, the guide advises the professionals to consult the state. Children under seven may not be in school, which places them at higher risk of abuse, said Ms Lam.

The guides, which were piloted in 2015, will now be made available to all agencies working with children.

The number of child abuse cases has shot up over the past decade, with the Ministry of Social and Family Development investigating 894 cases last year, up from 272 in 2009.

At the one-day conference held at Singapore Expo, 500 local and overseas experts and practitioners from the judiciary, law enforcement, healthcare, social services, community and academic sectors gathered to discuss collaborative approaches to family protection.

Awards were also given out to individuals and teams from agencies that have contributed significantly to managing family violence cases.

Mr Lee told the conference: "For us to tackle these problems more effectively, our prevention efforts for family violence must go upstream."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline Spotting child abuse: Guides to help those working with kids. Subscribe