Department has no long-term planning to help at-risk children

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 12:17am

I am not at all surprised to read that children are still neglected by the government and that there is a lack of places for children in need, in foster care and small-group homes (“Homes for abused children at capacity”, May 2).

There are no specific homes for abused children as such. Abuse is only one of many reasons for a child needing care. The majority need care because of, for example, the inability of parents to cope, or ill-health.

Children in care should not be further stigmatised by referring to them as “abused” children. The children are certainly abused, not generally by parents, but by an apparently uncaring , uninformed Social Welfare Department which still seems unable to develop long-term planning. There is no government child-care policy, merely provision of services on an ad-hoc basis. In Hong Kong, we are still working on the basis of a flawed 1980s report on alternative care.

The needs of disabled children in foster care were identified decades ago by Save the Children Fund but no action was taken and the Save the Children Fund went on to have more impact on change on the mainland.

The payment made to foster parents in Hong Kong is derisory and the support provided to them is absolutely minimal.

In a study tour to the US by the Hong Kong government and other agencies a couple of decades ago, it was witnessed that severely disabled children were placed in well-funded foster care, with necessary rehabilitation support services.

Little has been done to survey the many potential child carers on what is needed for them to offer a service.

No comprehensive study has been undertaken to identify the lack of knowledge and experience, and the gaps, in family and rehabilitation services, which would enable parents of mentally or physically challenged and other children to remain with caring parents. Prevention is far better than these half-hearted attempts at a so-called cure.

Unfortunately, there has been little interest from local academics. We need knowledgeable professionals and a child centred government to give resources to the care of children, with “family care first” as the motto.

When will there be a serious change for children?

Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai