Monday, 19 November 2012

Violence at home: More ways to get help

Govt to open 2 new family centres to encourage victims to come forward
By Lisabel Ting, The Straits Times, 16 Nov 2012

WORRIED about what people may say or think, Singaporeans involved in cases of family violence may hesitate to seek outside help.

To deal with this reticence and prevent the violence problem from escalating, the authorities are rolling out two Child Protection Specialist Centres (CPSCs).

They will be operational by the first quarter of next year.

This was announced by Minister of State for Social and Family Development Halimah Yacob at the National Family Violence Networking Symposium held at the Novotel Clarke Quay yesterday.

Instead of taking action only when families visit a centre for counselling, the new CPSCs will take a pro-active community-level approach to encourage families affected by violence to seek help.

"These centres will provide community-based casework, specialised assessment and treatment programmes that offer intensive home-based parenting sessions, or counselling for children with moderate risk and needs," she said.

Speaking to reporters, Madam Halimah explained why the new centres are needed: "Asians are very protective of their families, so if someone is a victim of abuse and she's coming out and asking for help, she may feel like that's an indication that her marriage is not working.

"She may think, 'If it's not working, maybe it's my fault. If it's my fault, I'd better not seek help or the whole world will know about it'."

The two new centres join three existing Family Violence Specialist Centres in catering to households affected by domestic strife.

While the CPSCs are meant for families with moderate risk and needs, higher-risk cases such as where the caregiver has severe mental-health issues will still be handled by the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Child Protection Services.

Madam Halimah also announced $6 million in yearly funding for the five centres, with the money to be evenly split among them.

This new community-level approach is welcomed by people who work with victims of domestic violence. It is good for the centres to be in the community because "most of the time, the families don't come forward or report it when it happens", said Ms Serene Tan, senior social worker at Care Corner Project StART.

"This will encourage them to seek the help that they need early, in order to prevent escalation and more severe abuse."

The symposium drew more than 500 participants from places such as hospitals, prisons, schools and crisis shelters.

What happens to abused children?

Low-risk families 
If the abuse is mild or infrequent, action is usually not taken against the family member concerned.

Moderate-risk families 
They can attend programmes at places such as the upcoming Child Protection Specialist Centres or the current Family Violence Specialist Centres.
Usually, counselling is provided, as well as case-management services that could tap on community resources such as medical services and the police.

A Personal Protection Order (PPO) can be taken out against the abuser. This is a court order for the person not to use violence against the family member again, and also not to incite or assist anyone to commit violence against the family member. If the PPO is disobeyed, thepolice should be called immediately.

High-risk families 
Examples are where the caregiver has severe mental-health concerns or if the parents are in denial of the abuse.

Child-abuse cases are referred by the Child Protection Service (CPS) to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and the police.

An investigation will be done to ascertain the extent of the abuse. A review is conducted by a multi-disciplinary Child Abuse Protection Team which comprises child protection officers, psychologists, paediatricians and other professionals. If the abuse is severe enough, the case may be taken to court.

The court may decide that the CPS should continue supervising the abused child in his own home, or that he should be placed in a foster home, with a relative or in residential care.

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