Singapore

MSF proposal aims to extend protection for kids up to age 18

A law that protects young offenders as well as children under the age of 16 who are exposed to abuse, neglect or risk may be extended to cover those under 18.

The Children and Young Persons Act provides for the welfare, care, protection and rehabilitation of children under 16. It also supports those who have committed offences; those who have been abused or neglected by parents or caregivers; and those whose parents are seeking the court's guidance to improve their behaviour.

Currently, offenders aged 16 and above are treated as adults before the courts.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee introduced a Bill in Parliament yesterday to amend the Act to, among other things, extend legal protection to children under 18, with the aim of enhancing care for them.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development also wants to introduce an enhanced care and protection order under the law, a court order that authorises a person other than the child's natural parents or guardians to care of and make decisions for the child.

It is to help maintain stable and long-term care arrangements if the court has assessed that it is not in the best interest of the child to reunite with his family.

This could be because the family is not able to care for the child without risking his safety and the child has remained in out-of-home care cumulatively beyond a specific duration.

This will provide the caregiver with powers to make decisions for the child, which would otherwise require parental consent, so decisions crucial for the child's development can be made without delay, the ministry said.

Another change would see the identity of a child under 18 remain protected as long as he does not commit a further offence when he is older.

Other proposals include extending childcare leave benefits to foster parents.

COURT & CRIME