I refer to the letter from Charles O'Brien headlined 'Vulnerable child should be looked after in family setting' (South China Morning Post, April 27).
With out-of-home care for children, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) adheres to the service principle that a family setting is preferred over an institutional setting.
Non-institutional care in the form of foster care and small-group homes takes precedence over institutional care, but a diversity of options are made available so children can be placed in the facility that best suits them. However, in handling a crisis case, a social worker will have to exercise flexibility, taking account of the special circumstances of individual cases.
In handling vulnerable children, such as the 10-year-old boy being discussed, our paramount concern is to provide immediate protection.
Without any knowledge about the child's background, the immediate task of social workers was to place him in a safe environment which could provide 24-hour service with professional social workers who would help settle him. Chuk Yuen Children's Reception Centre operated by the SWD is a place of refuge providing the child with the support he requires and residential care prior to the initiation of Care and Protection proceedings. We need to safeguard his welfare. Given the crisis that he faced, it was felt that admission into the reception centre was appropriate.
With the concerted effort of the centre's social worker and the family-services-centre social worker, we have successfully reached both parents and other relatives. We are assessing the child's welfare needs before working out a welfare plan for him.
The child is now very settled at the centre.
He has a good appetite, mixes well and plays energetically with other children. Arrangements have been made for him to maintain regular contacts with his mother through IDD calls. A foster-care place has been secured, if necessary, for the child to resolve long-term caring problems.
Principal Information Officer for Director of Social Welfare