Where are this missing boy's parents?
The police and social workers have a unique problem on their hands: Getting information from a silent child so they can return him to his parents.
On Monday at 8pm, a boy thought to be between eight and 10 years old was found wandering along Marina Promenade.
When police officers approached him, he could not provide the names of his parents or their mobile phone numbers.
He is now with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
Police are appealing for information about him and efforts are ongoing to locate his next-of-kin, a police spokesman said. (See report on right.)
They posted his picture on their Facebook page on Wednesday, but so far no one has come forward to claim him.
The New Paper understands the boy has not been communicating with police officers. So they do not know if he is a local or foreigner.
Experts who spoke with TNP thought it unusual that the boy was not revealing any information about himself.
Dr Brian Yeo, a consulting psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre who has been practising for about 20 years, said: "Police officers would be able to ascertain if he is a child with special needs.
"Even most children with special needs are generally able to give basic information about themselves.
"The way the police are broadcasting this alert suggests he is not willing to share his particulars. He could be running away from home or think he may have done something bad and is fearful of the consequences."
Said psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre: "The boy may have faced some trauma, abuse or betrayal and is now unable to open up to people, especially those in authority such as the police."
NO EFFORT TO LOCATE
Mr Koh found it unusual that the boy's parents have yet to try to find their missing child.
Mr Joseph Tan, founder of Crime Library, a voluntary group that helps track missing people, thinks there is a widening gap between children and their parents, teachers and peers; and this case highlights it.
Mr Tan said it could also be a case of defiance or mischief by the boy.
"If a child is loved and given attention, this would not happen. He may have been neglected and felt that his existence at home or in school was not important," he said.
A parent, who wanted to be known only as Mr Mahesh, 41, an IT project manager, knows what it is like to temporarily lose a child.
Mr Mahesh's 3½-year-old daughter was trapped in her school bus for two hours earlier this month.
TNP reported the story on July 4.
Mr Mahesh said the police contacted him and his wife because his daughter was carrying a card with his name and contact details on it.
He said: "It is absolutely necessary because anything can happen. You have to take care of your children."
On the lost boy, he found it surprising the child has not been communicating with the police.
"Maybe the boy is insecure about who he can trust. I educate my two daughters about who strangers are, who police officers are and who they can talk to," he said.
Housewife Tracy Tan, 50, a mother of two, agreed that it was the responsibility of the boy's parents to keep him safe.
"Some children are able to remember contact numbers, some take a bit more time. As a parent, if your child is unable to do so, you should at least attach a tag with your details on him," she said.
Madam Tan's son and daughter are now in their 20s, but she recounted some of her methods in keeping her children safe.
For example, she would tell her children what to do if they were separated from her at a public place.
"Wherever we went, I made sure they knew where the information counter was or where to meet me if they got lost."
An MSF spokesman said the boy is doing well and it will be arranging for him to be cared for.
The police spokesman said most of the children who leave home do so because of disputes with family members. They usually return home within a few days.
He could be running away from home or think he may have done something bad and is fearful of the consequences.
- Dr Brian Yeo, a consulting psychiatrist
Do you know this boy?
The boy, who was clad in a short-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants, was found along Marina Promenade at 8pm on Monday.
When officers questioned him, he could not provide his next-of-kin's details or contact numbers, said the police in a statement on their Facebook page.
The statement said he is about 1.3m tall and between eight and 10 years old.
It is not known if he is Singaporean.
Anyone with information about the boy's next-of-kin may call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
Information can also be submitted online at www.police.gov.sg/CrimeStopper.
By the numbers
The number of persons aged 16 and below reported missing in 2012, down from 600 in 2008.
The number of people reported, on average, to be missing each year between 2008 and 2012.