CHILDREN from broken families can enjoy a home-like residential care service when the Social Welfare Department and other welfare groups set up more small group homes. Fifty-four small group homes will be built in the 1993-94 financial year, more than double the current number of 23 homes, according to the department. Mrs Yuen Lam Tsun-seung, assistant superintendent of the Po Leung Kuk, said small group homes were better than large residential homes in creating a home-like atmosphere. ''The children, living with a couple, can enjoy a more family-like life. They are closer and friendly, just like a family,'' she said. The kuk set up the first small group home in Hongkong in 1974; it now has 10 small group homes. Two more in Pak Tin and Tung Tau Estate will be set up later this year. Each home is about 120 square metres and located in public housing estates in order to create a real home situation. Differing from a children's home or residential hostel, which is larger in scale and provides free boarding for at least over 60 children, a small group home normally accommodates only eight children aged from four to 12. A couple will be employed as house parents to live with and take care of the children. But Mrs Yuen was worried that a sudden increase in small group homes would mean a great demand for house parents. She said looking for suitable couples was always a headache as the requirement of the job was high in order to maintain quality. The house mother should be 30 to 50 years old, has reached Form 5 standard or obtained university qualification from the mainland, and experienced in housework. While the house father should have a stable job. He has to help his wife take care of the home at night when he is back from work, playing father of the family. They are allowed to live together with two of their own children aged below 21. ''The job is very demanding, practically requiring 24-hour work. The children, transferred from the Social Welfare Department, are usually from broken or single family, or whose parents are mentally retarded and unable to look after them,'' she said. Ms Chan Wai-ping, officer-in-charge of the kuk's small group homes, said parents would have a day off in a week but not necessarily on Sunday because they had to help arrange outdoor activities like a meal in restaurants or a picnic for the children. The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hongkong will also see its first two small group homes in Tsz Wan Shan later this year. Its executive secretary, Mrs Tang Chan Shun-yee, said they had run two advertisements to recruit house parents in newspapers but received less than 20 applicants. After a screening and preliminary selection, only a few were shortlisted for interviews, she said. The monthly salary for a house mother starts at $7,720 while the house father gets a subsidy of $3,496 a month.