More training to help pre-school teachers spot child abuse cases
Pre-school teachers to be trained on how to detect and report child abuse cases
Nearly 40 per cent of child abuse cases investigated by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in the past three years involved victims younger than seven, The Straits Times has learnt.
Yet, pre-schools have been found to be inadequate in spotting signs of child abuse, said experts, who called for regular standardised training for the teachers, which is currently not available.
This is important as many child abusers are immediate family members and pre-school educators become an important line of defence for the children, they said.
Child abuse includes physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse and neglect. They involve children up to age 16. MSF investigates cases in which the abuse happens within the family.
Over the years, the number of child abuse cases has shot up.
It more than doubled from 381 in 2014, to 873 last year.
The authorities have said this is due to more rigorous screening tools that improved the detection and reporting of cases, and more people being trained by MSF to use these tools.
In a statement to The Straits Times last week, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and MSF's Child Protective Service said that more will be done to train pre-school educators.
A system with an online manual that guides them on when and how suspected child abuse cases should be reported to the ministry will be rolled out from next month.
Online child protection training modules are also "in the early stages of development, and will undergo testing and enhancements before (being) made available in late 2018".
Currently, a 23-page Sector-Specific Screening Guide for educators is on ECDA's Child Care Link website for pre-school educators to refer to.
It gives examples of situations that they are likely to encounter - including potential child abuse cases - and is meant to help them know which concerns should be reported to the ministry.
A recent survey by the Singapore Children's Society suggests that pre-school teachers are not well-trained in handling child abuse cases or are not aware of the resources available.
It polled 336 pre-school staff, of whom 60 per cent had more than 10 years of experience and 62 per cent were in leadership or management positions.
Just over a quarter of those polled said they knew of the guide for educators.
Dr Rebecca Chan, a pre-school consultant with more than 18 years of experience, noted that all pre-school educators have to be certified first aiders, and suggested that training on handling suspected child abuse cases be done as part of refresher courses in first aid.
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If you suspect a child is abused and his or her life could be in danger, call the police at 999 immediately.
If you are worried about a child’s safety and well-being, call the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Child Protective Service Helpline on 1800-777- 0000 or send an e-mail to the ministry at MSF–firstname.lastname@example.org.