Sun, May 11, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Singaporean child abuse, neglect cases on the rise


The number of abused and neglected children brought before Singapore courts for care and protection orders is increasing, data published yesterday showed.

The number reached 114 last year compared to 18 in 1996.

In one-third of last year’s cases, the abusers were the children’s mothers, with fathers accounting for one-fifth of the cases, the Straits Times said. One in four of the youngsters were abused by both parents.

To enable the courts to deal in depth with such cases, a specialized Child Care Court will be set up to hear them every Friday, assisted by a psychologist and social workers working closely with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

The courts can currently order that the child be left at home with close supervision by the ministry, or a relative may be appointed guardian. The youngster also can be placed in foster care or a home if the situation warrants it.

The process will be made more child-friendly and informal, the newspaper said. The timetable for cases will be based on what is right for each child.

“Beyond parental control” cases will also be heard by the court and managed differently from criminal offences committed by juveniles.

Some children may feel intimidated by the court’s atmosphere or feel they have done something wrong, said Joseph Ozawa, senior deputy director of the Family and Juvenile Justice Center.

“One of the key things we are trying to do is to tell them that they are in a different court,” Ozawa was quoted as saying.

Counselor Gracia Goh said it was not surprising that one-third of the abusers were mothers.

“It’s stereotypical to think that abusers are fathers. Mothers are the ones who do the daily care giving. They are the ones who face the strain,” she said.

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