Social workers, officers 'did not suspect' toddler in Chin Swee Road death had gone missing

Flowers seen outside the Chin Swee Road unit where the toddler's body was found. (FILE PHOTO: Wan Ting Koh / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Social workers and officers in contact with the family of the dead two-year-old girl found at a Chin Swee Road flat last month did not suspect that the child had gone missing or had come to any harm.

Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Desmond Lee responded to several parliamentary questions on Monday (7 October) on the incident, in which the parents of the toddler are accused of murdering the girl back in 2014.

Members of Parliament had asked why government agencies were not aware that the child was missing, whether the family was under the watch of a ministry-appointed counsellor, and what measures are in place to detect cases of potential abuse.

“What I will say is this: Based on what the family members had said at that time, and the interactions that the family had with the different agencies, the officers and social workers did not suspect that the child had gone missing or had come to any harm,” Lee said in a written reply.

“The family had said that the child was being looked after by relatives. A two-year-old child will generally have no interaction, on a regular basis, with agencies.”

Child’s birth registered

The parents, who cannot be named due to a gag order, have been remanded for psychiatric observation. The mother is already serving a jail sentence of five years and two months for drug-related offences and theft.

Lee said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority confirmed that the child’s birth was registered. He also confirmed that, over the years, the family was known to, helped by or had contact with several government and community agencies.

They include MSF Social Service Office (SSO), Child Protective Service (CPS), Home Team agencies, Ministry of Education (MOE), the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Family Service Centres. These were for various matters such as financial assistance, family well-being, child-case issues, education and pre-school matters.

“What members of the family said and did in their interactions with each of the different agencies and organisations over the years is relevant to ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings. I should therefore not go into any specific detail... More details will be given in court,” Lee said.

Family approached agencies for assistance

Lee revealed in his reply that the family had previously approached the SSO to apply for financial assistance. The SSO had also linked the family with a Family Service Centre for general support to improve the family and children’s well-being.

The family also had previous interactions with CPS. During its social investigations, CPS will ascertain whether the children residing in the household are adequately provided for, and work with the family to put in place a plan to address the concerns.

ECDA had engaged the family as part of the pre-school outreach programme, in which outreach agencies reach out to lower-income families with children not enrolled in pre-school.

Should the family be uncontactable or unresponsive despite numerous visit attempts, ECDA and the outreach agencies would reach out to local community partners and work with them to try to engage the family when they are more receptive.

MOE also adopts several measures to reach out to parents whose children do not participate in the Primary 1 registration exercise. These include sending reminder letters and offering assistance to place the children in national primary schools.

Where there is no response to the reminder letters, MOE sends liaison officers to make home visits. If a child is not staying with the parents, MOE continues to work with various agencies to try to contact the caregivers of the child.


Related stories:

Chin Swee Road death: Woman accused of murdering her daughter remanded for psychiatric evaluation

Family in Chin Swee Road alleged murder had 'interactions' with community agencies: MSF

Chin Swee Road death: Man remanded for 3 weeks for psychiatric observation

Body found at Chin Swee Road: Couple charged with murdering their toddler in March 2014