Re-offending among former youth home residents hits 8-year high

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Lack of post-care support after release from youth homes may be to blame

About two in five former youth home residents re- offended within three years of their release, latest statistics show.

The figure, which is for young people released from the Singapore Boys' Home and Singapore Girls' Home in 2014, is the highest in at least eight years, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which runs the two homes.

Social workers said this could be due to the lack of post-care support available for young people when they are discharged.

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee announced earlier this month that post-care support for residents of these two homes will be extended to a year, up from two months currently.

During this period, assigned post-care officers check in on former residents regularly and help them assimilate back into society.

The homes house juvenile delinquents, those beyond parental control, and young people in need of care and protection.

Youth who are institutionalised could end up losing their natural social support network when they lose contact with their families and friends, according to Ms Tan Bee Keow, director of youth service at the Singapore Children's Society.

"They may feel lonely, lost, unsupported and misunderstood, and be inclined to turn to something which previously gave them comfort and joy - their negative peers and activities," said Ms Tan.

Another social worker who works with at-risk youth said the spike could be a result of intensified efforts to channel them to other programmes instead of the homes.

This amplifies recidivism rates as the homes now house a higher concentration of youth with a high risk of re-offending, who then "contaminate" each other with bad behaviour, he added.

"They get more ideas and influence each other, in a very negative sense, and after they come out, the tendency is for them to fall back on their new friends," said the social worker, who declined to be named.

Dr Roland Yeow, executive director of Boys' Town, said it is important to prepare the young people for their release from the moment they enter the institutions.

"Integration must come first, it is not just about holding the kid in for long enough," said Dr Yeow, who believes that post-care support is vital.