Parliament: Mental illness, violence seen in one in 10 child safety cases

SINGAPORE - About one in 10 cases of concern over child safety that are referred to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) each year involves parents or caregivers with mental illness and violent behaviour.

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Here is the oral reply to parliamentary question on care-giving arrangements for children of parents or caregivers with mental illnesses by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing:

Question by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC:

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development

(a) under what circumstances will the Ministry get directly involved in care-giving arrangements for a child where his parent, guardian or caregiver has been diagnosed with mental illness and has a history of violent behaviour;

(b) whether the Ministry will provide arrangements for the child to be under state care in order to protect his safety; and

(c) how many of such cases has the Ministry handled over the last five years.


MSF takes a serious view of each referred case that raises concerns over a child's safety. We conduct investigations to assess the risks posed to the child's safety, the needs of the child and family, and work out an appropriate intervention plan for the family.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the child may be able to remain in the parents' care, with safety plans and support services in place. If an alternative care arrangement is necessary, we will first explore kinship care, followed by foster care and as the last resort, placement in a residential home.

Each year, of all cases referred to MSF for investigation, about 10 per cent, or fewer than 20 cases, involved parents or caregivers with mental illness and violent behaviour.

Not all cases are referred or known to the Ministry. There are potentially vulnerable cases in the community whom we would like to extend support to. This is where the community can play a role - they can be vigilant and alert the authorities if they come across children in vulnerable circumstances. Families facing stress should also seek help early by visiting the nearest Family Service Centre or Social Service Office. As the issues can be complex, we need the collaboration of different stakeholders and professionals to provide multi-dimensional support for these families.