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๐๐ž๐ž๐๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐‹๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ๐จ๐ง๐ฌ ๐ญ๐จ ๐›๐ž ๐‹๐ž๐š๐ซ๐ง๐ญ ๐Ÿ๐ซ๐จ๐ฆ ๐ƒ๐ž๐š๐ญ๐ก ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ ๐ฒ๐ž๐š๐ซ ๐จ๐ฅ๐

The recent Question and Answer Session in Singapore #Parliament on the death of a child in Nov 2020 cast a light on several gaps that exist in how we protect the vulnerable in our Society.

Firstly, we learn that the #compulsoryeducation Act does not provide adequate protection of our children against family abuse and violence. This should not come as a surprise as this is not the intended purpose of the Act. It is to enforce the Childโ€™s Right for Education and aims to compel parents/guardians to satisfy this fundamental Right.

Thus when the Student Welfare Officer threatened to apply this Act as a means of compelling the family to allow her to have a video interview with the child, this Act in itself, as Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at MSF Singapore was reported quoted by ChannelNewsAsia as saying, that the โ€œChild Protection Services cannot exercise its powers based on school absenteeism.โ€ is correct. What Mr Chua could have gone on to say, is to inform Members of Parliament and Society at large that there are specific laws for the protection of Children and Young Persons and these are under the Children and Young Persons Act #CYPA.

The powers under this Act are potent, such as compelling parents to present their children for examination, entry into a home and removal of a child at risk. Perhaps a more appropriate question for Members to consider is, ๐ฐ๐ก๐ฒ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฅ๐š๐ฐ๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ง๐จ๐ญ ๐ซ๐ž๐Ÿ๐ž๐ซ๐ซ๐ž๐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐œ๐จ๐ง๐๐ข๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ ๐ฎ๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ ๐ฐ๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐œ๐ก๐ข๐ฅ๐ ๐ฐ๐š๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ๐ž๐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐›๐ž ๐ฏ๐ข๐๐ž๐จ ๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ฏ๐ข๐ž๐ฐ๐ž๐ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ฅ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ง ๐จ๐ฉ๐ญ๐ข๐ฆ๐š๐ฅ? We were told that the child was seen in low light conditions and was wearing long sleeve clothing. All these should have raised alarm bells to any trained child protection officer. Members were not told other information such as, ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐œ๐ก๐ข๐ฅ๐ ๐ฌ๐ฉ๐จ๐ค๐ž ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฅ๐ฒ, ๐ฐ๐š๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ฒ ๐ฌ๐ข๐ ๐ง ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐š๐ซ ๐จ๐ซ ๐œ๐จ๐ž๐ซ๐œ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ฌ๐ก๐ž ๐ ๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ฒ ๐œ๐ซ๐ž๐๐ข๐›๐ฅ๐ž ๐š๐œ๐œ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐ญ ๐š๐ฌ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฐ๐ก๐ฒ ๐ฌ๐ก๐ž ๐ก๐š๐ฌ ๐›๐ž๐ž๐ง ๐š๐›๐ฌ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ž๐ค๐ฌ. Furthermore, it appears that even after this rather unsatisfactory video interview, she still did not report to school and was only heard of when she was pronounced dead.

The glaring gap in this case is the role of the Child Protection Services (#CPS). It seems that as early as mid-Octโ€™20 they were aware of the schoolโ€™s concern for this child. The CNA reported that CPS has to โ€œ balance multiple conflicting interestsโ€ in cases like this. As a counsellor with 40 years of experience, I can well appreciate this and the difficult and challenging circumstances social workers and counsellors work under. But surely, the safety of a child is a common cause of concern and one that there is no dispute over.

I saw in an earlier The Straits Times article on 27 Feb โ€™23, that even the step-fatherโ€™s family warned the father against using violence on his step-daughter. Unfortunately, even after this warning the step-father did not stop.

Another glaring gap is how such a case could have gone on for weeks and months without neighbours being alerted and showing some concern. We live near each other, so one might wonder how such acts of cruelty can go unnoticed and ignored. โ€œGood fencesโ€, as the saying goes, โ€œmakes good neighboursโ€. And perhaps, the neighbours were all minding our own business. Another lesson to be learnt here is that we need mindset change. ๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ข๐ญ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐›๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐ข๐ง ๐š ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐ฉ๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ ๐œ๐š๐ซ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฐ๐š๐ฒ ๐ข๐ง ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ? ๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐š ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐š ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐š๐œ๐ž ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ข๐ญ ๐œ๐š๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ข๐ญ๐ฌ ๐ฆ๐ž๐ฆ๐›๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ, ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ž๐œ๐ข๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐ข๐ญ๐ฌ ๐ฆ๐จ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ฏ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ง๐ž๐ซ๐š๐›๐ฅ๐ž ๐จ๐ง๐ž๐ฌ?

I suggest a revisit to a recent Sunday Times article on what can Witnesses of Family Violence do if one is unsure how to care.

Let us use this tragic death and the raw feelings it churns up to not go on a witch hunt and look for who to blame or who is responsible. Let us instead look for systemic gaps and oversights in the way we care for the young and helpless. When we do this, we can better close ranks and provide for a better safety net.

Written By:

Benny Bong

Past President and Founding Member of the Society Against Family Violence Singapore

25 Mar โ€˜23

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