Many children in Hong Kong’s residential care system are stuck there for years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 10:25pm

The report, “About 60 vulnerable Hong Kong children remain in hospital as they lack a safe home” (December 22), highlights the huge need that we see daily at Mother’s Choice.

That this issue was discussed in the Legislative Council is testament to the many child welfare groups and charities which are actively working together to bring this critical problem to light.

It is unacceptable for a vulnerable child to remain stuck in a hospital or unsafe home because there is no place for them in the residential care system. However, merely increasing the number of places for children to live in residential care will not solve the underlying problem.

We must first ask ourselves why each of the 3,700 places are filled to capacity. There are so few places available because so many of the children who enter into the residential care system will remain stuck there for many years, most until adulthood, without ever returning to their birth families or being released for adoption. Greater effort must be made to get children out of this system, not just into the system.

Residential care should never be a permanent home for a child. We must make sure that each of the thousands of children currently living in residential care across Hong Kong is not left there indefinitely. Giving each child a safe, loving, and permanent family should always be our first priority, and most fundamental goal.

We cannot measure the success of our child welfare system by merely counting the number of places available for vulnerable children.

We must evaluate whether children are leaving residential care in a timely manner to join safe, loving, and permanent families. We must support families who are struggling to care for their children, and prevent the increasing abuse, neglect and abandonment of children in Hong Kong.

At Mother’s Choice, we are proud to be part of the solution providing more places for children who need a temporary home through our innovative and government-approved foster programme – Project Bridge.

Our volunteer Bridge Families provide children with a safe and loving family environment, and we work hard to ensure that every child can either be reunited with their birth family or join an adoptive family as soon as possible.

When we work together as a community, we can change the life stories of the next generation of children in Hong Kong.

Chan Kit-ying, director, services, Mother’s Choice