More can be done to protect Hong Kong children in foster care from abuse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 10:03pm

It is very sad to read of the abuse reportedly suffered by children in different circumstances.

All abuse probably cannot be stopped given the various circumstances in which it can happen but better efforts can be made to minimise the possibilities.

I am afraid it is again the government which has to show or encourage leadership, which it fails to do in so many instances.

It is swimming in surpluses but still we hear miserable excuses such as the recent one, deferring requested improvements for the financial security of the elderly, another vulnerable group.

Child care and understanding of the pressure it can impose on carers has never been a feature of government policies.

Taking the recently reported abuses as examples, the government has reduced support for foster parents by increasing the workload of foster care workers who place and should closely supervise the fostered children, as well as advise the parents. Foster care provides the family care all children need. The government seems to have little grasp of the circumstances of children placed in foster care and the consequent need of foster parents for good and regular support in understanding and handling the needs and trials of the children placed with them, many of whom have troubled backgrounds but whose behaviour can also be influenced by the circumstances of removal from their natural homes. Similar to the situation of biological parents, if a child’s behaviour is not well understood and the carer is ignorant of proper child handling or/and under stress then abuse can easily happen.

Another service reduced by the government is family life education, which includes knowledge and understanding of care of children, which could be of considerable help to parents and might well be adapted by well-trained social workers in school to develop teachers’ understanding and sensitivity to children who may be suffering abuse or neglect.

Sensitivity of teachers, especially in kindergartens and junior schools, and recognition by funders and management of the value of the time needed for teacher/child communication would be invaluable.

In a rapidly changing technological society, with families being more isolated and facing increasing pressure as they try to make a living, parents need support and parental education.

Our government is rich and must have a rich imagination in the implementation of caring government policies.

Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai