Four new small group homes to help kids with higher needs
Smaller care ratio and more specialised care to replicate family environment
For a child who has been badly traumatised, even the tone of a voice can trigger a meltdown.
To better help such vulnerable children, who may have been severely neglected or abused physically or sexually, the authorities will set up four new small group homes by the end of the year.
With a smaller care ratio and structured and targeted care, these new homes will benefit children with higher needs and challenging behaviours, said Mr Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.
The Minister for Social and Family Development was giving updates on Singapore's out-of-home care landscape at the Rehabilitation and Protection Care Conference yesterday.
Since 2013, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has been working at placing children in family-based care as it provides a nurturing environment, Mr Tan said.
But he also acknowledged the importance of residential care for children with higher needs and those who cannot be placed with families.
As of May, there are 1,100 vulnerable children and young people placed in out-of-home care here - 630 are in residential homes while the rest are in foster care.
Children with higher needs, special needs and medical needs make up 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the 1,100.
The four new small group homes will cater to those who have gone through extreme trauma, said Ms Audrie Siew, the director of Children in Care Services at MSF.
Our ultimate goal is to reunify as many children as possible with their own families.Minister for Social and Family Development tan Chuan-Jin
They are a collaboration between MSF and four voluntary children's homes (VCH), and will be located within existing VCH premises.
With a smaller care ratio than that of a typical VCH - a minimum staff-to-child ratio of 1:15 - and more specialised care, the smaller group homes will replicate a family-like environment, said Ms Siew.
Replicating a family environment for children in residential care will help them to be nurtured and grow well, said Ms Gracia Goh, a lead social worker at Singapore Children's Society.
"When you have to come out of such family histories, putting them in a large complex that cannot cater what a normal family can give to them is just not ideal," she said.
The Government will also invest $7 million over the next four years on training those who care for these children.
Part of the training includes teaching staff to identify and understand the triggers these children come with and help them regulate their emotions, said Ms Siew.
Out-of-home care, however, should remain a last resort and be put in place only if there are safety concerns, Mr Tan said.
To this end, the Government will review standards of care to ensure that children are only placed in care when all other options are exhausted.
"Our ultimate goal is to reunify as many children as possible with their own families."