"My maid washed used diapers with rest of laundry"

"My maid washed used diapers with rest of laundry"

When her new Indonesian domestic helper started displaying "psychotic and depressive" behaviour, first time mum Selene Ho feared for her newborn's safety. 

"I could understand that she was homesick and missed her family. But when she began crying for no reason, muttering to herself and hiding in the storeroom, I was so scared she would harm my baby," says Selene, 28, a business development executive. 

There are other horror stories. Stay-home mother-of-two Janice (not her real name) recounts how her "blur" domestic helper once washed her daughter's diapers with the rest of the laundry in the washing machine. 

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I found several used diapers being left to dry on the clothes hanger. My maid was shocked when I told her that those should have been thrown away," says Janice, who is in her 30s.

There are currently about 150,000 foreign domestic helpers in Singapore. Most of them come from Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Earlier this year, major maid agencies raised the benchmark monthly salaries of Indonesian maids here from $380 to $450. 

With the adjustments, expectations from employers have gone up too, say the agencies. 

"People have the mindset that since they're paying more, they expect the maids' quality to be better, too," says Peter Loh, director of Swift Arrow maid agency.

Young Singaporeans who hire maids to look after their babies and kids form approximately a third of his clients. 

With a budget in mind, young employers are also more focused in their search for the perfect helper, says Tay Khoon Beng, director and licensee of Best Home Employment Agency. 

"They ask for those with relevant babysitting experience - but it is not always easy to find someone who has," he says.

Khoon Beng adds that new domestic helpers typically attend training courses before they depart from their country. 

When they arrive in Singapore, they attend a one-week crash course to help familiarise them with household chores and other skills, such as caring for newborns.

However, he says babysitting only forms a small portion of the topics covered in the course, and that it is the employer's responsibility to provide more in-depth training.

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