Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee revealed that social workers and officers who were in touch with the family of a two-year-old toddler found dead in a Chin Swee Road flat did not suspect that the little girl had gone missing or was in any harm, based on what was said to them at the time.
Mr Lee said this on Monday (7 October) as a reply to a few questions raised by Members of Parliament. They asked why government agencies did not know that the child was missing, if the family was being watched by a ministry-appointed counsellor and what measures are there to identify cases of potential abuse.
“Based on what the family members had said at that time, and the interactions that the family had with the different agencies, the officers and social workers did not suspect that the child had gone missing or had come to any harm,” explained Mr Lee in a written reply.
He added, “The family had said that the child was being looked after by relatives. A two-year-old child will generally have no interaction, on a regular basis, with agencies.”
Since the case is before the court, Mr Lee said he will not go into details about it.
“What members of the family said and did in their interactions with each of the different agencies and organisations over the years is relevant to ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings. More details will be given in court,” the Minister said.
On 17 September, a couple was charged for murder after their daughter’s body was discovered in a Chee Swee Road HDB flat a week earlier. The police found the female toddler’s remains in a metal pot after they received a call for assistance.
The 31-year-old man and 30-year-old woman are the biological parents of the little girl, and they have allegedly killed her in March 2014. If convicted, the pair faces the death penalty.
Family in contact with many agencies
Mr Lee also disclosed that the family was in touch with many different government and community agencies. Some of them are MSF Social Service Officer, Family Service Centres, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), Child Protective Service, Ministry of Education (MOE) and Home Team agencies.
“There were for various matters, such as for financial assistance, family well-being and child care issues, education and pre-school matters and so on,” the Minister noted.
For example, ECDA was in contact with the family as part of the pre-school outreach programme. The programme gets in touch with lower-income families with children not enrolled in pre-school.
Mr Lee also highlighted that MOE also has a few methods it embarks on to reach out to parents who did not enroll their children for Primary 1.
Some of the measures they’ve taken include sending reminder letters as well as having liaison officers pay a visit to the home of unregistered children.
“If a child is not staying with the parents, MOE continues to work with various agencies to try to contact the caregivers of the child,” he said.
Just last month, MSF told that it is looking at how its network of agencies and community organisations can be strengthened, following the death of the toddler.
The toddler’s parents have other children, who are currently under alternative care arrangements. “MSF will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure the children’s safety and welfare,” Mr Lee said.
The name of the husband-wife duo cannot be revealed due to a gag order. The father has been remanded for psychiatric observation at Complex Medical Centre in Changi Prison, while the mother is serving a jail sentence of five years and two months for drug and theft offences.
The man will be back in court on 15 October through video-link for a further mention, whereas his wife’s case was heard in court on 1 October.