Speech on Children and Youth Person Bill By Henry Kwek, Member of Parliament for Kebun Baru, Nee Soon GRC For Parliament Sitting on 3 Sep 2019
1. I rise in support of this bill.
2. First off, on behalf of foster parents, I would like to thank MSF for allowing foster parents to benefit from childcare leave.
a. This is something that many in the VWO space, including myself, have asked for.
3. Second, over the years, we are aware of good progress that MSF and our VWOs have made to resource our homes that serve our vulnerable children and youth. As such, I would like MSF to comment on the current state of affairs.
a. Can MSF share on progress made? On average, how many of our children are currently in the home-based care such as government and VWO based orphanage, as well as and boys and girls home.
i. Have we seen a decrease in it over the years?
b. Most of us will agree that a family-based care is a better model compared to a home-based one for the children and youth, as long as the foster or adopted family has the means and the care and concern for them.
i. Therefore, can MSF share whether we have been able to put more of these children and youth into family-based care, such as through adopted and foster parents?
4. Thirdly, can MSF share how more can we encourage more people to step forward as foster parents?
a. I understand that there is a certain number of Singaporeans who would like to adopt children.
b. Is there room for us to encourage them to consider fostering instead?
5. Next, is there a way for us to streamline the adoption process, so as to reduce the cost of adoption?
a. For the needy, there is free legal aid.
b. But adoption cost several thousands, and this is a big cost to those from the sandwich class who are trying to adopt.
c. And on the ground, I see some cases of grandparents from the sandwiched class who want to adopt their grandchildren because the parents are not able or available to provide care.
i. And the legal cost takes precious resources away from the grandchild.
6. Lastly, under CYPA, we expanded on the definition of “emotional harm” to include “danger to himself or to other persons”, and “severely withdrawn, anxious or depressed”.
a. I welcome this move.
b. In this context, there is one particular group of children and youth whom I would like to talk about – those with extreme online addiction which has handicapped their ability to cope with life.
c. On the ground, I am seeing a few cases of children who suffer such serious cases.
i. Recently, I had a distressed parent coming in regarding his son who has severe online addiction issues.
ii. The secondary school youth had stopped going to school, has gone beyond parental control, and has started to exhibit violent behavior.
iii. The youth’s schools and parents are not able to persuade this youth to go back to school.
iv. Yet because this youth has not committed a crime, or to do something that is high risk, the mandatory intervention mechanism could not kick in.
d. Therefore, I hope MSF and the compulsory education unit within MOE can work together to explore whether, in extreme and only extreme circumstances, can we put the children and youth into mandatory therapy to deal with this online addiction?
e. In all likelihood, the online addiction might be rooted or compounded by other behavior, emotional or even mental issues. But a mandatory therapy will give us a chance to diagnose the situation and do the necessary course correction.
f. One may argue that this may not constitute as severe strong self-harm.
g. But in this day and age, if a children or youth person is not able to even complete basic education due to online addiction, in my view, I believe his or her future will be at risk.
7. In conclusion, based on the feedback that I hear from various VWOs, this bill is progressive and balanced. Would also like to thank MSF and the officers from various VWOs for their tireless work to care for our vulnerable children and youth.
8. With that, I support the bill.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response here