City Weekend

Home offers leg up in life for Hong Kong’s forgotten children

Care workers at the Children’s Residential Home in Mong Kok provide safe haven for youngsters separated from their families

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 5:01pm

Tiffany Kam Wing-man looks after her 14-year-old daughter and six-year-old son at home. But she also has at least eight other children to take care of at work every day.

Kam is one of 45 care workers at the Children’s Residential Home in Mong Kok, one of the service units of the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children. It provides round-the-clock care for more than 90 children aged up to three, referred to the home by the courts and the Social Welfare Department after having been abandoned by their parents, orphaned or removed from families unable to take care of them.

“It was a bit hard for me to take care of the children when I first got here. Some toddlers would crawl out of bed and try to get your attention,” Kam recalled of the day she joined the home in 2006.

She worked as a teacher at a nursery school prior to taking on the job at the home. Unlike in the last job, she is now responsible for the health and safety of children in her care.

Kam said she became a bit attached to the children when she first joined the home.

“A lot of children are forced to be here because they don’t have a choice,” she said. “Eventually, we will be happy to see them finally leave, go home and reunite with their families.”

Superintendent Shirley Chui Wai-ying said half of the children would go back to their families, while about 10 per cent would be transferred to other institutions. The remaining youngsters would either go into foster care or be adopted.

In the 2015-16 financial year, some 27 per cent of the children in the home were there due to problems related to drug abuse by parents, while 25 per cent had parents suffering from mental illness. The remaining cases were related to other parental health problems, lack of parenting skills or child abuse.

“We have seen some parents willing to change themselves or their habits for the sake of their children. But there are not that many of them,” she said. “So we are doing our best to look out for these children.”

About the Children’s Residential Home

When: It was established in the 1960s and was formerly named Ma Tau Chung Residential Crèche and Portland Street Residential Crèche

Where: 387 Portland Street in Mong Kok

Services: It provides 84 long-term and 20 emergency placements for children referred by the Social Welfare Department. The placements are fully subsidised by the department

Staff: There are 76 staff members. Of these, 45 are registered teachers responsible for teaching and care work

Funding: It is mainly funded by the government, but also accepts donations