Family Reunification and Strengthening

Trust-building: patience, positive regard and a few 'intelligent' risks   14/05/2010
Beyond ‘talking cures’   12/02/2010
Seeing family resiliency   29/01/2010
Alan Boy, his father and a whole new year   01/01/2010
Healing relationships by reframing issues   13/11/2009
Stepping back as professionals, empowering caregivers   25/09/2009
Seeing beyond sad histories   25/09/2009
Cooperation as the essence of family life   18/09/2009
Doing healing work   21/08/2009
Kathy and her children   08/05/2009
Sarah’s story   24/04/2009
Calling families ‘dysfunctional’   09/01/2009
Having the voices of children heard   02/01/2009
Cooperation as essence of family life   05/12/2008
Scoring in home games   19/10/2008
Creating opportunities for people to help themselves   12/10/2008
Natural support networks as solution   12/08/2008
Circus arts and family cooperation   20/06/2008
Families who want to get things right   15/02/2009
Families and diversionary work   11/01/2009
Family group conferencing as community empowerment   14/09/2007
Family work in restorative care   03/08/2007

Re-connecting Brenda with her family  21/05/2010

Brenda who is in her 40s is a proud mother of 2 young children who attend our learning programmes. Despite not having very much, she opens her home and her heart to 3 other children who have no accommodation. She constantly reminds her children that no matter what their circumstance, they always have it in them to share.  As such, all the children in her household are firm friends.

Recently, Brenda was hospitalised and so as respite from her day to day routine, we invited her and all 5 children to spend a weekend with us. We told her that she will get a chance to rest while we occupied the children with activities. When she accepted our invitation, we told her that the weekend will also allow us to show our appreciation for her generosity towards the 3 children.

Many of the people we serve actually serve as important resources for our work. We must honour their efforts and thank them in the same way we recognise volunteers who are not service users. For many of them, their circumstances would require them to be associated with social services for a long time as their file needs to remain open for their children to remain on educational assistance schemes. So moving beyond social services would also mean their efforts in serving others; their giving in spite of their receiving.

Brenda was visibly weak and tired but she managed a smile when she received her welcome gift of soap and hand cream. The choice of the welcome gift was an important part of our intervention. Brenda because of her past had fiercely prevented us from contacting her family. She believed that her family despised her for the choices she had made and having a social worker visit would only reinforce her family’s perception that she was deeply troubled. However, once she did pass us the phone number of her sister but she had forgotten.

We were concerned about Brenda’s health and wanted to see if we could get her family to offer her some support. With the welcome gift we prepared a foot bath and offered to give her a hand massage. She was surprised by our offer but gamely rested her feet in the warm water and allowed our colleague to gently proceed with the massage.  The physical touch brought about an openness that our colleague had never experienced of Brenda.  Brenda shared how she was brought up by her father, her love for swimming and bicycles when she was growing up and also the difficulties her siblings and her had to overcome.  When the footbath had cooled, our colleague took out a piece of paper and together with Brenda drew her family tree or what we call a genogram.

From our conversation, we learnt that Brenda felt closest to the sister whom we were in contact with. We were glad as we had earlier arranged for this sister to visit Brenda at our premises. So when this sister stepped into our premises an hour later, Brenda took her first steps back to her family.

Enjoy your weekend.

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts. – Charles Dickens

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Beyond ‘talking cures’  12/02/2010

Hurt relationships are difficult to heal. A common advice we tend to render is to "talk it out, get it out of our system and move on." While communication is obviously the key, this piece of adviceis easier said than done as 'talking' in a way that heals isnot an ability inherent in everyone. This will always be a reality despite the numerous communication workshops available J

Why then do we place such a premium on 'talking' as a medium of communication? Our professional training has made us aware that we are constantly communicating regardless of whether we openour mouths to speak or not. This is reality.The moment we meet someone, we form an impression.Of course we can't fully understand someone simply from his or her appearance just like we can'tjudge a book by its cover.But, when we look at thecover of a book, it is already speaking to us.

A mother was deeply hurt by the vulgar language her 15 year old son letfly when she confronted him about his late nights away from home. She could not fathom howthe respectful and dutiful boy she loved could show such disrespect.She wanted to talk it out with himandinvited us to join her forafamily campoutlast weekend.

The boy smelled a rat immediately andwarned us that he would run off the momenthe had to talk or participate in some programme. Reluctantly, hecame along whenmom told him that he could go fishing. “Maybe I can learn to fish too” mom added. The family comprising mom, an elder sister and the boy was a gracious host. Theyworked together tomake sure we had enough to eat but otherwise each member did their own thing. It was also obvious that the boy kept a distance from his mother.

Mom kept herself busy in the kitchen and we jokedthat her children's stomachs' arefilled with the love she puts intomeal preparation. She smiled but was anxious that her son would not talk to her. We reminded her that action speaks louder than words and encouraged her tojoin her son for fishing as she had planned. Sheeventually did but the only thing they caught was 4 hours of private family time. We learnt from mom that she did not talk about her son’s vulgar language but spent most of the time learning about hooks, weights and baits.

2 days after the campout, mom called us at the office. "You know, we did not catch any fish duringthe camp so I allowed my son to go fishing yesterday evening. He came back with 2 large squids and 2 big fishes for me. I am so happy as it is the first time he has done this."

Mom told us that her 15 year old loves squid and wanted her to cook them but he did not quite fancy fish. Hmmm… so what could he have wanted to communicate with the fish? I don’t know about him but fish served whole is a Chinese symbol of prosperity because the Chinese word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for riches or abundance, and it is believed that eating fish will help your wishes come true.

So, as we welcome the Tiger this weekend, I wish you ‘Nian Nian You Yu”. May your year be filled with abundant blessings.

If you break a rule that values are best communicated through actions; not through words, employees will punish you. – T.J Larkin & Sandra Larkin in the Harvard Business Review on Effective Communication

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Seeing family resiliency  29/01/2010

I had the privilege of attending a baby shower. Family and friends came together to celebrate the baby’s first month and to show their support for the mother. As more than 80 guests were expected, the shower was held at a community facility. Guests tucked into a sumptuous buffet spread that included the traditional red hard boiled eggs as well as ang ku kueh, a red sticky pastry with a sweet bean filling. These delicacies are customary food used to mark an auspicious birth.

The baby’s mother was all smiles as family and friends came by to adore the baby she was holding in her arms. Love was all around as baby and mom were continually heaped with compliments and well wishes. After a while, mother’s mother offered to hold the baby so that mother could have something to eat. I later learnt that grandmother played a significant role in caring for the baby especially during the school week where mother’s priority is to finish her secondary school education. The family had worked out a duty roster that enabled mother to have adequate study and rest time during the school week but on weekends, she had to take up the lion’s share of caring for her baby.

The mother’s father explained to me that as grand-parents they were always willing to help out but ultimately baby and mother must bond. He had discussed this in much depth with his wife and they concluded that for their grandchild to grow into a well adjusted person, the mother-child relationship must take precedence over other relationships. When I mentioned that a teenager will find parenting quite overwhelming, he reassured me that family support was strong and after all, he will always have his daughter’s best interest at heart. He assured me that he was mindful of his daughter’s needs as a teenager and a student but he did not feel that it would be in her best interest if he simply allowed her to abdicate her responsibilities as a mother.

I told this father that I was immensely impressed by the way his family has responded to an unexpected addition to the family which they had only become aware of 8 weeks ago. I then thanked him for inviting me and some other colleagues who had attended to them. Being at the baby shower reinforced our belief that the people we serve are indeed experts of their own lifeworld.

Enjoy your weekend.

There is no better investment for any community than putting milk into babies. – Winston Churchill

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Alan Boy, his father and a whole new year  01/01/2010

Today, Alan Boy will be one 7 year old who is fervently wishing that this is going to be a Happy New Year. 2 days ago, together with a colleague he cleaned up his little flat to welcome his father home. Yesterday morning, together with his younger sister and a grassroots leader who has been caring for him, he stood at the gates of Changi Prison waiting for his father to step out. The grassroots leader then brought the entire family for a roti prata lunch which is the favourite food of the father.

Over the last 4 months, we facilitated Alan Boy’s monthly visits to his father. We recall that during the first visit, Alan Boy was very quiet and hardly spoke a word. Only on the journey home did he confide in us that he was extremely angry with his father for getting himself incarcerated. Nonetheless, we continued with the visits and had conversations with him about his father whenever appropriate. The grassroots leader who was caring for him also constantly reminded him that despite his flaws, his father genuinely loved him.

This week, Alan Boy has been telling us that he is really looking forward to being with his father once again. Despite the disappointments he has experienced in the father-son relationship, there is no doubt that Alan Boy values and honours his father. This loyalty to his father is a strength and quality within Alan Boy which we must be very careful not to dampen in our attempts to attend to his well being.

Perhaps for Alan Boy, "happiness is not something you experience, it's something you remember." As long as he remembers things, events and people that have brought him happiness, he's happy. On this note, I wish you a Happy New Year. May you always have a happy thought each and every day of the year!

Enjoy your weekend.

"Happiness is not something you experience, it's something you remember." - Oscar Levant

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Healing relationships by reframing issues  13/11/2009

Early this year, when we met Raymond in the Reformative Training Centre, he begged us to persuade his family to visit him. So, when we met his mother and sister, we learnt that they were still hurting from the disappointment his offending had caused them. Hence, they decided that to stop the pain, it would be best to keep Raymond out of sight and out of mind. This way of coping provided some relief and they even asked us if it would be possible for Raymond to remain in the Reformative Training Centre instead being supervised in the community during the last few months of his order.

This is a common scenario and such families are often judged to be lacking in moral commitment. Obviously, family relationships have broken down but framing it as a moral issue does not do much in taking the situation forward. We work on the premise that these relationships can be healed and breakdowns only reveal what’s missing or needed. Usually if we just look a family unit, it is about how members are working together, talking to each and feeling about each other. It is not that we can work miracles but we can do little things that strengthen cooperation, communication and an experience of affection.

This week a colleague was attending to a young mother who had just given birth. The father of the baby was incarcerated and could not be at the delivery but little things that will strengthen the family included helping the mother write a letter to the father about the delivery, taking photographs of mother, child and other family members and creating a photo album of the baby’s first days. As I write this, our colleague is still providing various concrete practical help aimed at helping the family organise themselves to care for the new-born.

Back to Raymond, through various activities aimed at healing the relationship he has with his family, he is now living in the family home and doing his part by taking care of his elderly grandfather. He takes his grandfather out for walks daily and contributes part of his salary towards household expenses. His mother tells us that she now has meaningful conversations with Raymond and she is grateful that we believed in the strength of their family even when they did not feel like one.

Enjoy your weekend.

In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past, a bridge to our future. – Alex Haley

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Stepping back as professionals, empowering caregivers  25/09/2009

While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light". Thava 16 years old, had not returned home for 7 days and his mother was so angry that she kept insisting that it was best to send him to an institution. The situation at home was tense and the sad thing is that Thava was recently released from an institution in which he had been residing for 6 years. For those of us who knew Thava and his family before he was institutionalised,we could not help feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. Back then, Thava and his mother had big fights and after they happened, Thava stayed away from home. It was happening all over again 6 years later. Thava has not learned to live with his family.

With the help of our youths, we located Thava in a housing estate. He was hanging out with a bunch of older youths who to our pleasant surprise, advised Thava that he had "only one mother and he must go home no matter what." When Thava protested that they did not understand what he had to put up with, they simply told him to "cut the bullshit" and to return with us. These youths later revealed to us that they had once benefitted from our diversion programmes and even asked about colleagues whom they knew. It was really quite an empowering moment for us to experience our social capital working for us : )

Thava followed us back to the office and we arranged for his father to pick him up. We were mindful that this boy had been depending on professionals for almost half his life and it was about time he depended on his family. When the father arrived, Thava voiced his pessimism about ever getting along with his mother but both father and son agreed that they should get the family to work towards a joyous Deepavli. It would be 5 days of hard work but they would give it their best shot and for Thava, that meant that he had to search within himself the right way of relating to his mother. Neither his father or us, told him what he had to do but we reminded him that he had a "light" within.

Thava's mother was livid when he arrived home with his father but Thava kept his cool, greeted her respectfully and went to play with his younger brother. We sat with the mother and captured the basis of her unkind statements and harsh actions. She wanted Thava to learn that staying away from home without parental permission was wrong but since Thava did not seem to learn from her reprimands, she sought the help of the police. She was searching for know-how and support in parenting but when the police suggested the possibility of institutional care, it hit her that it may not be such a bad idea since her housing situation was precarious and at least Thava will have his basic needs attended to while she sorts out housing arrangements for the longer term.

This mother could have sought the support of her husband but perhaps, having had 2 of her children removed from her 6 years ago, she now feels that she has to be a supermom who saves the day for her family. Anyway, after a good 2 hours of hearing her out, she finally asked "Now that I have my son back, what should I do?" Wisely, our colleague re-directed her to her inner "light", "Thava is your son and mother knows best." It took this mother a while before she headed towards her 'light' but tomorrow, this family will celebrate Deepavali together for the first time in 6 years.

May your "light" shine within you this weekend.

Children & their families no matter how challenging have strengths that can be built on to help them develop into well-adjusted individuals & nurturing environments respectively. - A Helping Principle of our Safe Kids Programme.

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Seeing beyond sad histories…  25/09/2009

Jane(AWB 0839, 0849, 0908 & 0913)arrived in Court with her uncle, properly attired in her school uniform, hair well tied up and in her white school shoes. The Magistrate looked briefly at the papers before him and then looked at Jane who was seated below. "So Jane, do you understand the recommendation that was put forward to you?” Jane squinted a little, leaned forward and blurted “Huh?”

The Magistrate was patient. In a very composed tone, he asked again. “ Do you understand what was recommended for you?" and again, Jane went "Huh???" Her brows drew closer together, and she startedknocking her knees together nervously.Our colleague put her hand on Jane's left knee and she calmed down and stopped doing so.The following conversation then took place.

Magistrate: Do you understand that your uncle will be taking care of you from now on?
Jane: Yah
Magistrate: Do you have anything to say about that?
Jane: No lah
Magistrate: If you have anything to say, you can say it now?
Jane: Nothing ah....
Magistrate: Ok... so I approve the recommendation and appointyour uncle as the Fit Person for Jane, while Jane will continue her daily after school activities at Kids United Home.

So we have succeeded indischarging Jane from Kids United Home one week short of a year's stay. More importantly, we have reunited Jane with family members who are committed to giving her the best of their love and care. The above conversation shows that despite a Court room designed to bring about a sense of decorum, Jane could not help being the 12 year old she is.

Jane came to us an 11 year old orphan who had been in residential care for about 6 years. She was suspended from school and had a track record of being violent to peers and those who cared for her. Her family was assessed to be uncooperative and adoption or stranger care was viewed asthe only way to go. This was who she was and even if we had spelt out our expectations of her like how the Court room had expected her to behave, she would have been Jane who had yet come to terms with the cards that life has dealt her.
Thus, our job was to care, guide and to protect her. As a place of safety for children in need of care and protection, we could have gone about our job in the following ways:

  • Shelter her till she reaches 16 years old and no longer deemed to be a child who needs protection under the Children and Young Persons Act. By doing so, we would have protected her from her family who has not proven to have Jane’s best interest at heart;
  • Focus on nurturing her resilience and her daily living skills so that she will be able to cope with life’s challenges;
  • Preserve and strengthen her family so that they become a nurturing and protective factor for the longer term.

The Kids United Home was not set up for long-term residential care so obviously we went about our job as described in b & c. Since 2005 we have served 45 children and 32 of them are back with their families and doingwell. 5 were fine upon discharge but were later readmitted into another residential facility as they had gotten into situations that compromised their safety and not because their families were unsafe or uncaring. That leaves 8 who are still residing with us. So far the average length of stay among all residents has been 11.8 months and our success rate for a sustainable family reunification stands at 86%.

Jane is now back at school. Yesterday, her form teacher told us that she is pleased that Jane is trying her best. She takes twice as long as the other students but she finishes her work as promised. Besides being proud of Jane and wishing her well, the next time I see her, I will thank her for being a wonderful teacher of what a good residential programme should be.

Her initial emotional outbursts and disruptive behaviours taught us to journey towards the epi-centre of conflicts; we learnt that when a child is uncooperative, it is usually because there is something wrong with our system rather than the child. Her fierce loyalty to her friends at the expense of her own well being taught us that children have a strong sense of generosity.

While she may not be the brightest spark in the classroom she was a star in-line skater. This taught us that even as we aim to get children to be good at their studies, we must not forget that it is equally important if not more that they can be good at something else. Once, I asked her to pick out plants from a nursery that she thought would create a warm welcome at the entrance of our Home. Watching her take pains to get it right showed me how important it was for us to trust children with decision-making.

Finally, as much as we try to give children a sense of belonging, they belong to their family and Jane’s family has reminded us that if we cannot see beyond the sad histories that bring children to our door, we will institutionalise pessimism. If we cannot see a positive future for the children and their families, it is not likely that we will succeed in bringing about one.

Enjoy your weekend.

When it is necessary for a family member to have a period away from home in a program that reflects a cooperative, competency-based approach, residential treatment can help children or adolescents and their parents develop a new view of themselves.

On the other hand, when residential treatment is concerned with control and cure, when it seeks to solve problems or repair deficits, it can be a powerful factor in further disempowering families and contributing to problems persisting or recurring.
–taken from Residential Treatment by M Durrant

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Cooperation as the essence of family life  18/09/2009

Young people are often caricatured as having untidy rooms and having little motivation to keep house. It was not so with the 9 kids in our Kids United Home who with the support of more than 25 volunteers from Barclays, worked hard at sprucing up their rooms over 2 days. While a spruced up room was the 'objective', the process provided important lessons in budgeting, time-management and teamwork. The volunteers guided our kids as they managed their $70 budget; the shopping trip began and ended as scheduled and the painting of the rooms was completed right on time with a debrief to wrap up the whole exercise.

Over the past few days, our kids have been visiting each other's room mutually admiring each other's accomplishment. Thank you Barclays for befriending our kids. Your efforts remind me of a saying by Elizabeth Lawrence.

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

Despite the positive family support we had described in AWB 0934, Mdm Jamilah was looking very down when we visited. So we started asking her about her Hari Raya preparations and realized that her lack of means to prepare for the celebrations was a source of stress. We offered our support and it was really quite amazing for us to see how 2 cans of paint brought out the essence of family life - co-operation.

When we arrived the following morning, Mdm Jamilah and her 3 children were already moving their furniture and preparing the living room for a paint job. The entire family excitedly accompanied us to the paint shop and Mdm Jamilah took her children's choice of colors even though she was a little hesitant as they were not what she had in mind. This was supposedly a family in conflict but the shared goal of a joyous Hari Raya Celebration got them working together harmoniously. When the task was completed, one of the children remarked that the living room had been white since he was born and he was really happy and proud that it now had color.

The children in Kids United Home and Mdm Jamilahs' family both received a little practical support that brought out the best in them but rest assured that we are not advocating for a home decorating programme. The decoration projects were only a means of helping everyone to help themselves. Success in our job is not so much about what we have done but what those we serve have done for themselves.

Selamat Hari Ray Adil Fitri to all our Muslim friends.
Enjoy your long weekend.

"The true worth of a man is not to be found in the man himself, but in the colors and texture that come alive in others. " ~ Albert Schweitzer

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Doing healing work  21/08/2009

“It is not the professional qualification you have that makes you a good therapist; it is what’s within you that enables you to form a therapeutic alliance with your client.” I was reminded of this statement by Anthony Yeo during his memorial service yesterday evening. Anthony, who passed away on 20th June, was often referred to as Singapore's "father of counselling" for his pioneering role in the profession's development.

This week 21 of our team-mates began their 2nd series of intensive lectures for a Diploma in Social Service Practice at the Social Service Training Institute. This programme is offered by the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Berlin. Let’s continue to encourage them as they juggle their assignments and duties at work. Hopefully, through the programme they do not only acquire practice skills but enlarge ‘what’s within them’ to give and to serve.

Here is reflection from our team-mate Stella that describes the work done by Virginie, Samuel and herself for a mother who had just gotten out of prison that demonstrates a capacity to give and to serve. Since coming home, this mother and her children have been at odds with each other and our team-mates persuaded the family to organise a surprise birthday party for mother.

I have only known Mdm Jamilah for 5 days but listening to her, I realized that the death of her husband in 2007, her release from prison, her children returning into her care, unemployment and the expectations of others (e.g. school) have been overwhelming. We pondered about what we could do to bring healing to this hurting mum but after last night’s session, I realized that the true healing began when she was placed in the heart of her family.

We had planned to start dinner by 7pm but then, Virginie and I had to first track down her 3 kids aged 14, 13 and 12 yrs so that they would turn up on time. The kids were making lots of excuses but with mum’s help, we finally got them home by 8pm. It was meant to be a small family affair but the kids brought their friends home and mum welcomed them. When we asked whether they started their meal with a prayer, the kids giggled. Then the youngest child started to pray but mum decided to take the lead and led the family and friends in prayer – giving thanks to God. Very proud of her!

What surprised us was when mum’s 3 sisters turned up in full force. We were only expecting her oldest sister but she contacted the younger two sisters to turn up for the celebration. As the sisters arrived, mum smiled at them nervously and continued to occupy herself in the kitchen. The arrival of the aunts was also the cue that kicked the kids into action. They lit up the cake which was cleverly hidden in the room by Virginie. I switched off the lights and mum was so surprised as we sang Happy Birthday. Then the sisters sang a song in Malay asking God to bless her on her birthday.

We didn’t have to do much as the energy in the room was so high. We felt the warmth of the family filling the room. I distributed yellow roses to all present as Mum busied herself in the kitchen. We called out to her and when she came, each of her kids hugged her and said “I love you!” Her sisters then did the same and added other words of wisdom, praise and love. The entire family did not hold back their emotions as they shed tears of joy.

As we made our exit, Samuel, Virginie and myself affirmed her and thanked the family for coming to together to show mum that she is loved and supported by so many people.We all went away feeling energized. This is just the beginning and we will continue the healing work with the family.

Enjoy your weekend.

I strongly believe in the capacity of people to transcend situations and problems…I am not so much struck by the problems that people have as much as the capacity of people to cope and deal with them. – Anthony Yeo

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Kathy and her children  08/05/2009

Every time an under-supported and over stressed family comes our way, let us remember what a privilege it is that they have allowed us to share a part of their lives for a while. Even though they may be accustomed to having social services in their lives, I assure you that people want to be self-sufficient. It is embarrassing to be asking for a hand-out and often welfare recipients deal with their embarrassment by rationalising that the hand-out is an entitlement. Of course, when they do that they disappoint the givers. In response, givers may start to question if these people really want to help themselves in the first place or are they abusing the goodwill and generosity extended to them?

Kathy left her 2 teen-age children in the care of their step-father and moved in with her widowed father to care for 4 of her youngest sister’s children. Her younger sister, a single parent had ‘disappeared’ once again and Kathy observed that this happened when parental responsibilities became too overwhelming for her sister. This week, we also discussed another family. Nancy, a single mom is caring for a 2 year old niece because the niece’s parents are incarcerated. Nancy also has 3 children living with her and her entire household income is a $400 welfare cheque. Both Kathy and Nancy would need a welfare cheque to get by and many more cheques for some time into the future too. Thus, they get classified by helping agencies as being welfare-dependent, not self-sufficient or not motivated to work.

If we really want to be helpful to Kathy and Nancy, we need to see that they are working very hard at being a ‘self-sufficient’ family. They want the children in the family to remain in the care of the family. They do not want their children’s upbringing dependent on some welfare home. Ironically, holding on to a full-time job may not allow them to achieve ‘family self-sufficiency.’ Yet, when looking at such situations, helping agencies tend to take the pat approach of securing employment for the likes of Kathy and Nancy and withholding the welfare cheque if they do not comply. Are such strong arm tactics in the spirit of helping or giving? What will happen to the family as a whole when Kathy and Nancy go to work? Is it really so wise to rush them into employment?

In such situations, the fastest way to a destination may not be the shortest distance between 2 points. Getting a job always appears as the fastest way for self-sufficiency but when Nancy and Kathy have other valid priorities, they may even throw the kitchen sink at us to keep us away. When such barriers are in the way or when such a fight is started, how can we ever establish a helping relationship where we can work on shared goals?

Whenever I come across a Nancy or a Kathy, it never amazes me how these people find the strength to get on with it. Many keep their sense of humour about them and it is always a joy when helping professionals like us get the raw end of their sharp and wicked wit :) Thus, I am always curious how they have come so far. Their tumultuous life experiences are a vast reservoir of learning experiences to draw from when facing life’s ongoing challenges. Their stories are those of resilience and the strength of the human spirit. Heaven forbid that we ever rob these riches from them.

Enjoy your weekend

Very often great and beautiful things are difficult to discover. Gold is buried under layers of rock. Pearls are hidden in shells lying in the debris at the bottom of the ocean. We have to work to find them. The challenge for all of us is to search for greatness in the most unlikely places. – Muhammad ‘I am the greatest’ Ali

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Sarah’s story  24/04/2009

“This mother’s idea of care and stability may be different from ours” a colleague reminded all of us as we tried to find a way of ensuring that Sarah’s pre-schooling children were not neglected (AWB – 0910). Over the past 2 months, Sarah had been placing her children with different acquaintances by promising them that she will provide a sum of money for their care. These arrangements always broke down because Sarah could never fully fulfil her side of the agreement. Hence, the children were moved from one household to another. We arranged temporary accommodation for her but she moved in one night and left the following morning, preferring to rough it out in public areas. Our facility is just like a prison she says.

This morning in Court, Sarah offered the custody of her children to her ex-husband after both parties agreed that the children will be cared for by a brother-in-law who had a home deemed by her to be conducive for her children. Sarah would visit her children at least once a week. We have never really been able to gain Sarah’s trust to the extent of establishing a helping relationship and could never figure out her plans. With our eyes on the well-being of her children, we blinded ourselves to her well thought through plan for the longer-term care of her children. Only after the proceedings in court this morning could we see what Sarah was trying to achieve all this while by her seemingly ‘irresponsible’ behaviours.

After spending half her life incarcerated, Sarah wanted her freedom. She realistically knew that being a Sunday mom was the best that she could be. However, she also wanted her children to have as normal a life as possible. Hence, she avoided the professionals and authority figures like us as far as possible because she was well aware that we had the power to keep her children institutionalised for a long time. She knew what it meant to be institutionalised and it was definitely not something she wanted for her children. By placing her children with different acquaintances, she was buying time to have her day in court. With the children physically with her, she was in a better position to negotiate with her ex-husband and to appeal to the Court to endorse her choice of the long-term care-giver for her children.

After having been excluded from society it is understandable why she is finding it so hard to trust once again. She does not trust herself as a mother nor does she trust people like us who are trying to help her become a better mother. “How can a system that has inflicted so much pain on me now claim that they want to nurture me? How can a system that has made me lose my self-confidence now say that they trust my ability? These people don’t know what they are doing, these people don’t know me.”

Sarah may have lost her ability to trust others, her ability to be a full-time mother but she never lost touch with reality. She always knew what was best for her children in the light of her condition and that of her ex-husband.

Enjoy your weekend.

There is an objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes, and values. ~David G. Myers, Social Psychology

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Calling families ‘dysfunctional’  09/01/2009

This week we were heartened to hear about our government's efforts to help 'dysfunctional' families and to find ways to curb their situations from deteriorating. In the months ahead, we will see different initiatives at preventive, remedial and developmental levels. It is encouraging to know that resources are being set aside for families with multiple problems and that there are intentions to 'grow' the social service sector.

Often, in addressing social problems a 'medical' model is used to develop a framework for assistance. 'Dysfunctional' people have problems that need professional intervention. So there needs to be more professionals. It is perceived that social service professionals are like 'surgeons' who can remove problems with a skilled operation or 'psychiatrists' who are playing an important role journeying with their patients as they cope with their chronic ailments.

We believe that such a helping framework may actually reinforce the 'dysfunctionality' of people as the onus of responsibility for rectifying the 'dysfunctionality' will remain with the professional. But sadly when no progress is made, it is often the family who is not responsive to treatment. We feel it is a tall order to expect a family to rectify their problems simply because a helping professional is in their life. Social workers are not 'little doctors' and when put in such a position we generally attempt to remove the 'dys' from 'dysfunction' with a standardised 'dys' solution.

'D for drugs i.e. letting a medical diagnosis take precedence, Y for yakking i.e. talking cures and S for substitution i.e foster care and the likes.' These efforts reduce risks and 'solve' pressing problems but in the longer run may not be at all strengthening for families or provide them with a reason to feel empowered. To borrow from Reclaiming Youth International if we really have to use a label, instead of 'dysfunctional' use 'over-stressed' and 'under-supported'.

'Dysfunctional' families are over stressed and under-supported usually because their family and community support systems are weak. The 'dys' treatment will never be able to make a 'weak' family strong but support from extended family and the community will definitely help a family function or even excel. Social workers can plan to reintegrate over-stressed families back to their community but it is the community that allows the integration.

Professional support is an important source of support for over-stressed families but we would also like to see resources set aside for communities who help their members. For example, a school is an important community for young people and those that intentionally create caring environments for their students should be supported, a sports club in the neighbourhood is another and so forth. If you are a volunteer reading this, you are the community and without your involvement our troubled young people will only have professionals as 'friends'. How are they ever then to become like you and me who have a sense of belonging and a sense of pride for who we are, our family and our friends?

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Having the voices of children heard  02/01/2009

2 siblings aged 5 & 3 years old were discharged from hospital and into the care of their grandfather this afternoon. They have been kept at a hospital the last 10 days because it was deemed that their mother was unable to adequately care for them. "Why are my children not allowed to go home? I have done everything you asked me to. They are in child care and my mother and sister help me care for them when I am at work." Their mother pleaded to no avail.

Mother is a single parent with 6 children aged from 10 to 2 years old. She has been on the radar of Child Protection Services since August 08 when it was alleged that she physically hurt her 2 year baby. This time round, her 5 and 3 year olds were kept in hospital because they were pinched by their 10 year old sibling. Mother acknowledged that it was not appropriate for the elder sibling to do so but felt that siblings do get into little fights every now and then.

Over the last 10 days, we managed to get the children's grandfather into the picture and thankfully, he is now accepted as an appropriate care-giver for these siblings. Without which, these siblings would have been sent into foster care.

We are grateful that these siblings can start their year in the care of a family member rather than with a foster parent who would be a stranger. Today is the 1st day of school for 6 year olds in Singapore and if you drop by at any primary school you will see several children experiencing much anxiety as they walk into an unfamiliar environment even though it will only be for a few hours. I imagine that the anxiety experienced by children placed in foster care would be very much more. It is definitely not a happy situation to be in.

Now that the children are out of hospital, there is still a lot of work to be done. For a start, as their grandfather lives in a different part of Singapore, their early childhood education has to be sorted out. We also need to support the family so that they do not need to be on the radar of the Child Protection Services. As we continue to look out for such families, let us always remember to define the best interest of the children in a holistic manner. Their little voices are hardly heard or when they are audible, we make the mistake of giving little consideration to what they are saying.

For now, let us wish this family a Happy New Year and may we always find the courage to care.


We fail to see the child, just as one time we were unable to see the woman, the peasant, the oppressed social strata and oppressed peoples. We have arranged things for ourselves so that children should be in our way as little as possible...
A child's primary and irrefutable right is the right to voice his thoughts, to actively participate in our verdicts concerning him. - Dr Janusz Korczak, (22 July 1877 to August 1942) paediatric physician and Polish youth work pioneer who died in The Holocaust together with the children from his orphanage.

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Cooperation as essence of family life  05/12/2008

Jane (AWB - 0839) was on her best behaviour these past 2 weeks as she waited excitedly to meet her elder sisters who visited her on Wednesday. Both sisters are in other residential facilities and it was a rare opportunity for them to come together for some family time at our Kids United Home. As in our helping principle 'The essence of family life is co-operation and not togetherness', we planned a day filled with opportunities for the sisters to work together and to look out for each other.

The day started with Jane hosting a tour of the home. After the tour, the sisters spent some time in Jane's room before having their welcome lunch. After lunch, they were introduced to tree-climbing skills and as they supported each other in a very experiential way, they succeeded in climbing the tallest tree in the vicinity. The day ended with a BBQ which Jane had carefully helped to prepare. Jane had ensured that there was adequate supply of her sisters' favourite BBQ food.

The programme gave the day some structure but it did not give the sisters the family structure which was inherently present the moment they got together.

We observed the eldest sister demonstrating maternal traits towards her siblings. She combed and braided Jane's hair, sharing and feeding her lunch and sometimes whispering comforting words into Jane's ear when she sensed agitation. She was also observed quite frequently to be holding hands and intertwining her arms with her sisters. Most of the time, she sat in between her two sisters, quietly pleased that she had a sister on each side.

Jane's other sister shared her laugh and her interest in music. While she spoke less then her siblings, she expressed her delight at being together with her sisters by performing a duet on the piano with Jane. She was also the best tree climber and beamed when Jane proudly reported to the staff and the other residents that this sister was the bravest and fastest among them.

As for Jane, she was the perfect host and all through the day, she was looking for opportunities to have a family photo taken. She was obviously very proud of her sisters and introduced them to everyone whom she bumped into. The moment her sisters left for the day, she asked us when the next family event would be and requested for the photographs to be developed as quickly as possible.

During the day, Jane and her sisters gossiped about their aunts and uncles and discussed the possibility of them living together under one roof again. Jane and her sisters may be orphans but they have each other, they have family and they are family.

Enjoy your weekend.

'Sisters' is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship - Margaret Mead

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Scoring in home games  19/10/2008

The father and daughter we spoke about last week have been spending time together getting to know each other. The girl always smiled whenever others enquired about her father. She seem quite proud and pleased that her father was nearby even when she was in residential care. Last week, when she voiced her doubts about her father's intentions for spending time with her, we realised that we needed to create opportunities where her father could confidently demonstrate his concern. Thus, we arranged for this girl visit her father at his workplace.

The father is a cook at an eating place. It was peak hour when we arrived and the father could not leave the kitchen to greet his daughter but not long after we were seated, a plate of chicken wings arrived with compliments of the chef. The waitress who sent the plate took a good look at the girl, gave her a big smile and giggled excitedly as she left. Everyone at the eating place was thrilled to learn that their 'chef' had a such a 'grown-up' daughter.

When the orders tailed off, the father came over to the table with a big chocolate cake for his daughter. His colleagues came by to tease him for keeping such a 'big secret' from them but he laughed it off and simply replied that they had never asked. Soon almost every colleague was coming by to say hello to the girl and we could see that she enjoyed being acknowledged. As we left the eating place that evening, father had a Cajun chicken meal packed for her and she had an invitation for him to the Kids United Home.

As we try to help people to help themselves, it only make sense to facilitate Lifeworld Solutions which are basically efforts or tasks that the people we serve can competently and confidently carry out. This father would probably be tongue-tied in a counselling session but on his 'home-ground' he is a respected and skilful cook who has no problem dishing out the food of love which his daughter desires from him.

In sports, statistical analysis have shown that 'playing at home' can be translated into a distinct advantage for the team or the individual. Basically, more games are won at 'home' rather than 'away'. Thus, if we really want to help the people we serve to succeed, it makes sense having them play more 'home' games. Hmmm... it will then be more 'away' games for helping professionals like us who are so accustomed to our counselling, diagnostic and treatment approaches. Guess we will get used to it since professional players are expected to win game both home and away.

Enjoy your weekend.

He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1749-1832)

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Creating opportunities for people to help themselves  12/10/2008

A key dimension of our Residential Programme is Family Strengthening and Reunification. This means that even while the children are physically under our care, we have to find ways where their parents or care-givers influence the way we guide and care for their child. The Kids United Home is a respite from the factors preventing them from remaining at home but it definitely should not be a respite from family ties.

Yesterday, upon our suggestion, a father agreed to spend a few days at the Kids United Home to strengthen ties with his daughter who had never lived with him. This father felt that by doing so, he could count on our support if needed. It seemed like a good idea but not one good enough for his daughter. When she learnt of the plan, she immediately challenged its logic and demanded to know why she could not get acquainted with her father in his home. She asked us if her father was reluctant to have her live with him.

This girl had valid points. Why did she need professionals like us 'watching over' her father and her? She was already under professional care and what she wanted was fatherly care. Instinctively, she recognised that this plan was a plan from the professionals and not one from her father.

Perhaps, to help people help themselves, we need to create opportunities for people to do so and get out of their way. We also need to allow people to help themselves in the way they know how and not simply put them into alien situations organised by professionals.

Our attempts at Family Strengthening with another resident was a little more successful. This boy avoided his grandfather's funeral and this got his father fuming. When his father located him in the neighbourhood, he sought our help to pick him up as he was afraid that he would lose his temper and in the process badly hurt his son. When he calmed down he contacted us again and we brought the boy to see him. We allowed the father to reprimand the boy and we insisted that his son spend a few days with the family in their time of bereavement. Following which, we ensured that the boy went home regularly. This week, this father did something he had never done before. He closed his chicken rice stall so that he could go swimming with his son.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Natural support networks as solution  12/08/2008

We received 2 requests this week to admit orphans in our Kids United Home. The parents of these children have passed away from illness and from what was presented to us, their situation looked rather bleak. We feel for these children and would certainly like to see how we can be of assistance. However, by simply rushing in to 'take over', we run the risk of further marginalising them from whatever support or resources within their extended family or natural support networks.

Natural support networks have to be the preferred longer-term solution for such children. Hence, I was very encouraged when I was reviewing the profiles of some children in our Daily Care Programme and came across 3 orphans from 2 families who were living with relatives. These children are coping in school and regard their care-givers as family. Their care-givers have challenges of their own but yet it would be unthinkable for them to 'release' their ward when the going gets tough. One of these orphans is with a relative who has a disabled child of her own while the other 2 are living with an aunt and grandmother who have little financial resources.

There are bonds and a strong sense of responsibility within natural support networks. Our job is to enhance them and not to compete with them. If you think about it, we can never really compete. Often, children's homes and foster parents release the children under their care back to the State when they feel that they cannot cope with them. "Sorry, these children are beyond us - let someone else try" may not be an easy thing to say but it is frequently said. I am not questioning the commitment or know-how of helping professionals like us but simply highlighting the limitations of a helping system.

Despite its limitations, the professional helping system is often perceived as the preferred solution for the problems of the people. In the context of children's homes, there are 3 scenarios:
1. The families delegate the care and guidance of their children to the professionals because they are 'helpless'. The professionals then take over believing that they can improve the situation;
2. The families compete with the professionals and challenge their methods because they have been continually told that their efforts are not good enough or that they lack parenting know-how &
3. The families and professionals work collaboratively in the best interest of their children.

For us, we are mindful that scenario 3 offers the best possibility of facilitating a sustainable longer-term solution for the troubled children that come our way. Of course, it is easier said than done but we have started thinking about methods that reinstate and respect the role of the family in the children's lives especially when they are under our care. We need to find ways where parental rights are respected and family members assist professionals like us with their wisdom, practices and know-how with regards to the care of their children.

Enjoy your weekend.

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back. ~William D. Tammeus

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Circus arts and family cooperation  20/06/2008

Last night, we conducted a circus workshop for a family of 4 comprising 2 teenage girls, their father and a care-giver. These girls are in the last phase of our residential programme and the activity was a means of strengthening family relationships. We wanted to give family members a positive experience of communication, cooperation and cohesion.

Dad organised his household with a firm hand and his main complaint whenever he visited his daughters at our facility was that his girls addressed us by our first names. He considered it disrespectful of his daughters to do so and could not comprehend why we allowed it. We acknowledged his views and explained that our youth workers have chosen to go on a first name basis as they believed that by doing so, they would be more approachable and accessible to the youths. However, they were clear that they were an adult to the youths and not a peer. We added that there is a place for decorum and hierarchy and at no point would we encourage his daughters to address him by his first name. Anyway, Dad was not quite convinced and more discussion would probably have led to more complaints.

From this encounter and others, we observed that dad and his daughters had strong opinions. We were also informed that whenever there was a disagreement between dad and his daughters, a power struggle ensued and hurtful words were exchanged. Overtime, such experiences have damaged family relationships somewhat. Hence, last night's circus workshop was meant to kick-start the repairing of relationships.

After a lovely vegetarian dinner with the family sitting at a round table, Andrea our trainer from Cirque du Soleil got the family and the staff going with an introduction game. We got into a circle and before passing a juggling ball, we had to call out the name of the person whom we were throwing the ball to. It was a simple process but it needed concentration as Andrea kept increasing the number of balls. It was good fun and soon everybody was really into it and I could not help noticing that the daughters were addressing Dad by his first name. Dad took no offence and was smiling throughout.

Guess the activity really broke the ice and during the session, Dad participated as best as he could despite having his feet in casts. He was game enough to allow Andrea to lift him off his feet and in a very natural fashion, family members came together to attempt the various 'challenges' put forth. Eventually, the family succeeded to having an unusual family portrait taken. They were supporting each other as they formed a human pyramid of 6 persons.

During the debrief, one of the daughters expressed that she was really happy to see her family cooperating and proud to see her family members bravely attempting the exercises. Everyone expressed surprise at what they succeeded in doing and Dad's take on it was that he could see his daughter's trying their best to make the family work. Oh.... the girls did not call him by his first name after the exercise but addressed him as 'father'.

Enjoy your weekend.

Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much. - Robert Greeleaf

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Families who want to get things right  15/02/2009

A youth under our Restorative Care Programme was discharged from the reformative training centre on the eve of Chinese New Year and we conducted the family conference the next day because his mother who resides in KL was on her monthly visit. 2 aunts, his sister and his mother were present and they ensured that our colleagues Myrle and Lyn John were well fed with bee hoon and curry puffs before the conference began.

Today, I learned that the family carried out the plans from the conference dutifully. The youth has been 1 week on the job in a bakery and appears to be doing well. He has also signed up as a volunteer with a welfare home where he will be serving his community service order on his day-offs.

Generally, troubled young people and their families want to get things right. Given a chance, they would want to experience some success and happiness too. However from where they stand, they often feel like no one is giving them a chance. Often without intending to do so, our society can come across as rather unforgiving.

In the newspapers today, there was an article posing the question of whether we should punish parents whose children have not been registered for school. Comments from various people in the article appeared to suggest that the law must act to send a clear signal that would deter others from doing so. I was just wondering would that then mean that when the parents are punished, these kids would then be in school? The penalty is a fine of up to $5000 or jail of up to a year, or both.

Others have made much efforts to reach these parents to no avail and that's why punishment is now being considered. But, perhaps being inclusive would take more than a big stick approach. It means focusing on getting these children some form of education even if it means they are not attending school like the mainstream. The law for compulsory education was set up to ensure no child was left behind and not to inflict punishment on parents. Punishment is a consequence for those who do not respect the law.

So in the spirit of this law, we should ensure that children receive an education and a stability that sustains their continued schooling before their parents can be punished. It is really a 'Catch 22' situation and it boils down to how far we are willing to see that these children are not deprived of an education. Families are going to be further destabilized when parents are punished and this cannot be good for the children, let alone their education.

I empathize with the difficulties of those who had made great efforts to reach these children and I am not criticizing them. I am just saying that a problem solving approach would need mindsets and approaches that are different from what we have or are comfortable doing. For a start, home schooling is allowed under the Compulsory Education Act and with more thought I am sure other alternatives would emerge.

Enjoy your weekend.

Punishment - The justice that the guilty deal out to those that are caught.”
Elbert Hubbard quotes (American editor, publisher and writer, 1856-1915)

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Families and diversionary work  11/01/2009

I met the biological mother of a 14 year old resident who has just met her child for the first time after 10 years. With the help of MCYS, we received the last known address of this lady, just before 2007 ended. Before we visited, we were wondering what she would say when we show up at her doorstep unannounced? Would our presence be a present or would she get a rude shock at the beginning of the New Year. We were heartened at her joy of finding her child but when she told us that she had been waiting 10 years for this moment, we felt rather sad. She was a significant and supportive person in this child's life who everyone lost sight off.

As you know, Community Beyond is no longer at Outram Road and as we await our new premise at Admiralty East Road to be ready, we are housing our residents temporarily at our various centres. This temporary arrangement has been a wonderful opportunity for us to intensify our efforts at bridging our residents back to their natural support networks. Residents at Community Beyond were 'homeless' for various reasons and they were referred to us because it looked like family support was not forthcoming.

Our temporary housing arrangement has been a 'controlled' crisis that helped us to precipitate change in a good way. Over the last 2 weeks, we have managed to locate next of kin or loose familial ties for several of our residents and we are helping them to gradually re-establish ties. It is still early days but there is a definite shift as many are now pondering what would their lives be like should they reconnect with their kin.

We were also speaking with the folks from the Family and Juvenile Justice Centre of the Subordinate Courts and we were informed that each year about 140 young people are issued with a Beyond Parental Control Order. Once within the Court, there is no U-turn and the child/youth will have to bear with the due processes and live with experiences that may not be helpful for his development e.g. incarcerated at the Boys Home (Youth Prison).

Many of these parents go to Court because they don't know where else to go or because they received some inappropriate advice by acquaintances who do not fully appreciate the legal implications of doing so or lack awareness of appropriate social services. So we were quite glad that at another meeting with the Child Welfare Service of MCYS, we were told that they would like us to play a part in diverting these cases away from the Court.

Over the last few days, mother and child have been spending time getting to know each other and this will be their first weekend together. This would not have happened if we had just seen our job as providing shelter for the homeless.

Enjoy your weekend and let's hope mother and child do too.

In time of test, family is best. ~ a Burmese Proverb

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Family group conferencing as community empowerment  14/09/2007

This week we had the wonderful privilege of having Allan MacRae, National Operations Manager, Ministry of Social Development, Children, Youth and Family Division, New Zealand to further enhance our Family Group Conferencing skills. Allan is also the co-author of the Little Book of Family Group Conferencing - New Zealand Style and is a much sought after consultant for restorative directions in justice, community & family. Back in 2004, it was he who got us started with adopting Family Group Conferencing (FGC) as one of our key tools for the management of youth offending as well as for formulating care & protection plans for children.

Allan honed the practice skills of our FGC Coordinators and drove home the point that we are here to help families develop plans for their young people and their families to succeed. Funny how there is always a tendency for plans to set people up for failure or for plans to catch wrong doing. Plans have to be monitored but plans are not only made for monitoring purposes. Plans are to be monitored towards success, rather than to catch people out. Plans are made for the longer term well being of the young people and it is our primary interest and that of the family concerned that these plans are successful.

Allan also drove home the importance of getting all the required support, resources and information to the conference, that empowers and enables the family to take charge and make good decisions and sound plans. Sometimes along the way, we will find that situations have stabilised and we do not necessarily have to carry out an FGC.

Today, we had a visit from the Counselling Intervention Unit of MCYS with whom we work closely for coordinating some child protection FGCs. FGCs are now an important intervention at MCYS for child protection and we learned that they are also looking at implementing it as part of the exit process for the youths in their institutions. This is a fantastic development and we are glad more people are adopting a process that we deeply believe in. It is always good news when more people adopt restorative methods as it means more young people and their families are regarded and entrusted as responsible members of our community.

If you are not an FGC Coordinator, what I have written so far probably sounds too technical. Let me share something that happened this week to show why it is so important to believe in the abilities of families and to work towards their empowerment. A mother who is pregnant with her 5th child is worried sick because Child Protection Department is already getting ready to take her baby into care the moment she delivers. This mother is viewed as incapable because all her children are now under state supervision in one form or another and are not living with her.

Such actions are always pursued in the best interest of the child but while they may resolve an immediate issue, they do little for the well being of this family in the longer run. If this mother is deemed incapable, how is she ever to learn or experience the role of a mother if all her children are not with her? Eventually should her children return to her, what would be the quality of mother-child relationship?

While exploring the possibility of a FGC, we gathered the Child Protection Officer, the foster parents and the mother in the same room and ensured that everyone listened to what the mother had to say about her situation. She spoke about her pain of not having her children with her and her anger and her inability to understand why all this was happening to her or rather why she could never seem to meet the expectations of the system despite putting in her best effort.

We need to eventually ensure that there is necessary support to help this mother succeed but at least for now, this mother's voice will enrich the decision making process regarding the care of her children. For the decision makers,
The warmth of complexity shines on their face
The winds of good change blow gently on their backs
- John Paul Lederach, a pioneer in Conflict Transformation

Enjoy your weekend.

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Family work in restorative care  03/08/2007

Yesterday, we began the third phase of our Restorative Care Programme in the Reformative Training Centre. This phase is called Community Bridging and we arranged for 3 participants to meet with their families. It was not the usual meeting behind a glass panel but one where these 3 youths took part in a series of adventure learning activities together with their family members.

7 family members, comprising parents, uncles and a sibling were present and we are really grateful that the Prison Authorities allowed them in. Some of these family members have broken the law before and normally that would have barred them from entering a rehabilitation facility. By allowing them in, the Prison Authorities demonstrated that they valued family reintegration as an important part of the rehabilitation process. Well done Myrle and Fawzi for making this happen.

After experiencing the harsh realities of incarceration, neither the participants or their family members could believe that they were actually going to be spending an entire afternoon together. One participant whose parents were both incarcerated met up with an uncle whom he has not seen for about 10 years; as for the other 2 they had both their father and mother with them even though their parents are no longer married or living in the same household.

We got the participants to explain the exercises to their families and everyone went through the paces sportingly. Family members commented that they really had to work on their communication and 1 pair of parents realised that they needed to refine decision making processes within their family. There was indeed learning but just as importantly, everyone had lots of fun. On the way out of the facility, family members kept talking about the experience and thanked us for a meaningful afternoon.

One way of looking at rehabilitation is to instil fear of the consequence of breaking the law and hard discipline. Another is to prepare the inmate for life after incarceration. With our belief that after-care begins on Day 1 of in-care, we are slowly but surely finding a balance through our Restorative Care Programme.

This weekend the kids from our Healthy Start Child Development Centre will be camping. On Sunday morning they will be taking part in a sports day at Bishan. This event is organised by the PCF Kindergartens and it is also a National Day Celebration. It is always good to see our kids being a part of a mainstream event.

On Wednesday, 8 August 2007 our children and youths are putting up a small show entitled ONE Red & White to mark National Day. It will be held at the courtyard between Blocks 26 and 28 Jalan Klinik. The purpose of this small event is for us to emphasise to these young people that we are ONE people that belong to a community that looks out for one another. While Singapore has festivities and celebrations all year round, we felt that National Day is the most appropriate for delivering this message as regardless of race, language or religion we are ONE. The 30 minute show starts at 7pm and this is also a way to connect with the residents of the blocks around our office and of course the Residents' Committee. Do join us if you can.

Enjoy your weekend.

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. - A Chinese proverb

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