More parents are taking up a Beyond Parental Control (BPC) order, the Singapore Children’s Society Youth Services said. This order applies to children aged 16 and below and have behavioural problems in school or at home, leading to their parents applying to the Court for assistance in managing them.
Every Friday at Youth Court, a team of social workers and counsellors from the Singapore Children’s Society Youth Service Centre screen complaints from parents wanting to pursue a BPC order. In the first three months of 2015, the team has screened 113 complaints. It screened a total of 373 complaints for the whole of 2014.
Among the common complaints by parents – that their children were involved in truancy, were runaways or stayed out late at night.
“A lot of parents who come to court every Friday to lodge the BPC complaint, a lot of them are desperate,” said Dr Carol Balhetchet, Senior Director at the Youth Service Centre. “Some of them are desperate but are open to listening to other possible alternative care or alternative help. But the majority of them come to court with the intention of forcing through the BPC order, of obtaining the BPC order.”
Before an order is obtained, counsellors organise a pre-mediation session with parents and their children to see if their issues can be resolved. But if such measures fail, the BPC complaint will proceed. Once accepted by a judge, the child is put into a closed institution – either the Singapore Boys’ Home or Singapore Girls’ Home – for four to five weeks. During that time, an investigation is carried on the child’s background, which will be presented to the judge.
The judge then has three options: To keep the child in a closed institution, or admit the child in an open institution like Boys’ Town, where they can come out during weekends. The child can also be put under a Statutory Supervision Order, where a counsellor will supervise youth and parents. All options can last between one and three years
GIRLS MAKE UP MAJORITY OF BPC CASES
In 2013, there were 83 Beyond Parental Control cases, compared to 66 cases in 2014. But a consistent trend has remained since 2008 – girls form the majority of BPC cases. In 2014, 40 cases involved girls, while 26 cases involved boys. The Youth Service Centre of Singapore Children’s Society says it is also seeing girls become tougher and more aggressive.
“During adolescence, generally youth could face challenges in regulating their emotions and girls tend to have higher emphasis on maintaining good relationships with significant others and friends,” said counseling psychologist at PsyFit Gerald Boh. “If they could not have quality relationships, they might face difficulty fulfilling their underlying need for love and belonging and, as a result, might exhibit inappropriate behaviours.” These could actually be a cry for help, he said.
There were three Beyond Parental Control cases involving 11- to 12-year-olds, and 24 cases involving 15-year-olds. The age group of 13 to 14 years old, which comprised 39 cases, made up the majority in 2014.
The Singapore Children’s Society Youth Services said this is a newer trend. In previous years, the majority of BPC cases were between the ages of 14 and 15 years old.
The Society said this could be due to the fact that parents are now receiving less family caregiver support. In response, they are encouraging parents to spend more quality time with their children to get to know them better. The Society adds that ultimately, community support is a better solution for a delinquent child than intervention from the authorities.