Concern over how to support children of drug offenders
Even as families must remain 'first line of defence', MHA will consider suggestions to help vulnerable kids
Should children whose parents are drug offenders be sent to boarding schools to reduce the risk of them also becoming addicts later in life?
Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) posed this question to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Parliament yesterday.
In reply, MHA Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin, said the ministry would consider Mr Foo's suggestion.
But Mr Amrin also stressed that families must remain the "first line of defence" in ensuring such vulnerable children do not fall prey to drug abuse.
He added that other family members could help even when the parents of such children have been incarcerated.
"So we have to do our best in an imperfect situation because we recognise that parents play a very big role in the lives of children," Mr Amrin said.
"Given this imperfect situation, relatives would have to come in, the community would have to rally and help to fill in the gaps."
Mr Foo's concern about the support for families of former drug offenders and their children were shared by three other MPs, who also asked questions on the issue yesterday.
Given this imperfect situation, relatives would have to come in, the community would have to rally and help to fill in the gaps.[Ministry of Home Affairs Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin
Replying to Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), Mr Amrin said MHA does not track the number of drug offenders with children at home or the number of children who grow up to be drug abusers.
Mr Yong had cited studies that show children with drug-addict parents are more likely to take drugs later in life.
While acknowledging there was a real risk of such children ending up as addicts, Mr Amrin said there were programmes to support families and children of drug offenders.
- The Singapore Prisons Service's family-bonding programmes, which are run with community partners;
- The Home Team's Youth Engagement Programme to help those at risk;
- The National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism, which coordinates efforts to address the issues of offending and re-offending.
There are also such initiatives by Singapore Prisons Service such as mentorships, tuition support and parenting skills workshops.
Mr Amrin said MHA is also working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, other government agencies and community partners in an integrated approach to support at-risk children, offenders and their families.
Replying to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who asked if MHA could measure the effectiveness of the various programmes, Mr Amrin cited challenges in collecting such data as some family relationships may have fallen apart.
"But we are nevertheless trying. We have a rough sense. We are not able to share because there needs to be more work put into this," he added.
Growing up in a family enviroment where one or both parents abuse drugs can affect children in many ways, from cognitive to emotional, said Ms Evonne Lek, a family therapist.
Fei Yue Community Services said that while it would not be fair to directly link drug-abusing parents to their children growing up to become addicts, the environment can make children more susceptible to at-risk behaviour such as alcoholism, smoking or drug-taking.
Its spokesman said: "When young people live in an environment where their parents and peers use drugs, they might grow up with the mentality that it is acceptable."