Doing Her Best with Each Request

By Julie @ ECDA, MSF

Julie is an Early Childhood Subsidy Officer at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). For the past 16 years, she has been working closely with child care centres to process subsidy applications for families, which includes processing back-payment cases. She also manages public queries from the centres and parents, and follows up on relevant MP cases.


Sometimes, Julie does more than just ensuring the affordability of pre-school education, as she recalls handling the case of a mother whose action breached the Court Order.

The mother had taken her children away from a child care centre they were enrolled in, and placed them in another centre without the knowledge of the father or the grandmother, even though the mother did not have the care and control of the children.

As such, the grandmother called in – weeping and desperately seeking help to get her two grandchildren back.

But as much as Julie would like to lend a helping hand, her hands were tied.

“In this kind of scenario, we have to let them know that it is not within our authority to intervene in custody issues. With no control over such disputes, it’s best that both parties come to an agreement and settle the issue among themselves, or refer the issue to the Courts or Police, ” said Julie.

Going beyond her obligation – Julie still wrote to the mother to highlight to her about the impact of her actions and the proper manner to handle the issues instead of taking unilateral actions that will inadvertently put the children at a disadvantage.

She says that when dealing with frustrated customers like this, “We have to listen to them, understand the story behind and then do our best to render assistance.”

Even when nasty remarks were thrown at her by applicants who insist on claiming subsidies they are not eligible for, Julie does not let these remarks affect her.

Experience has taught her to handle complaints graciously – but it is Julie’s bubbly and cheerful personality that has enabled her to keep things impersonal and remain professional in her work.

Her judicious thinking is especially useful in managing certain heart-wrenching cases.

For instance, some children from low-income families may miss out on pre-school because their parents can no longer afford the child care fees. Often, these parents will require financial assistance for the children to continue with their pre-school education.

One important part of Julie’s role is to liaise directly with social workers who conduct house visits and carry out the necessary background checks on selected households. With evidence proving a need for financial aid, she will then render the appropriate assistance to the families.

Julie also shares about her encounters with cases involving disputes between parents and child care centre personnel, such as the centre delaying the application of subsidy for the parents even though the latter have submitted the forms on time.

In such situations, she says, “We do our best to help the parents because the centre’s inaction had deprived the parents of the subsidies that they would have been eligible for.” Hence, Julie also helps the centres to perform audit checks and back-pay the affected families.

Doing her best and making a difference in someone’s life – Julie explains “It’s the sense of achievement and satisfaction I get when I manage to help a family with their problem” that keeps her motivated in life.

Determined to help them back on track

By Rouisanna @ MSF

Rouisanna is a Senior Probation Officer at MSF. She assesses the offenders’ suitability to undergo rehabilitation in the community and works with offenders placed on probation by the Court.


You might not guess that she is Probation Officer (PO) – let alone it being her first job – when you first meet her.

Her slight frame belies the determination she has to help the youth offenders under her care. Since Rouisanna first started work 4 years back, many have asked her, “Why did you choose to work with offenders?”

“Having been brought up in a rather sheltered environment, it was daunting at first to work with offenders. But I’ve always wanted to help support offenders – something about helping them called out to me,” said Rouisanna.

POs like Rouisanna work with offenders whom the Courts have deemed to be suitable for probation. They then work to best support and increase the likelihood of the probationers being reintegrated into society, while lowering the chance of them reoffending. Rouisanna, in particular, works with youth offenders residing at the Singapore Boys’ Hostel (SBHL).

Youth offenders (those below the age of 19) – who are ordered by the Courts to reside in hostels – are those assessed to be at higher risk of reoffending.

Rouisanna remembers a case where 15 year-old Luke (not his real name) was put on probation for having under-aged sex with his 12 year-old girlfriend. The case was particularly difficult as besides charges including sex with a minor and child protection concerns; the young girl was pregnant. In addition, there were a throng of issues to sort out, such as financial support and care for the baby.

Any other person might be fazed by such a high-needs and high-risk case – but not Rouisanna.

Putting herself in their shoes, Rouisanna understands the need to take things a step at a time – that includes helping the probationers overcome each complication in their lives as they come.

“Many of the probationers are from dysfunctional families themselves, and lacked proper support and guidance while growing up,” said Rouisanna.

Citing Luke’s story as an example, Rouisanna elaborates on how his father had committed suicide a few years back. His mother – the sole breadwinner of the family – suffers from chronic depression and is unable to work at times. Besides the mounting financial difficulties faced by the family, Luke has to take on a “parent role” in looking after his mother, while juggling school work and figuring out life as he grew up.

Determined to help her charges, Rouisanna shares how she tries to see the best in each youth while offering a strong and comforting presence, a listening ear and a shoulder of support for all.

“I see the probationers not as ‘cases’ but as people,” said Rouisanna. “I want to establish a relationship of trust, so that they would turn to me for support.”

These then work together to help her build a stronger relationship with the probationers – that not only helps her in her line of work – but also bolsters her personal and professional development, as she grows alongside her youths.

 

Family United. Strength Unlimited.

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

14051770_1196607300382043_8473696740470892432_n-1Spent an enjoyable afternoon cooking for these lovely ladies!
From the launch of Hour Glass Kitchen at Pacific Activity Centre last month.
We will see much more of the silver population by 2030.

We wrapped up the public consultation on the draft Vulnerable Adults Bill last month. The proposed new Bill will enable the State to intervene in high risk cases, conduct assessments and ensure the protection and safety of these vulnerable adults.

By 2030, there will be over 900,000 Singapore residents 65 and above. Our parents, uncles, aunts, friends – they are aging. As these family members and friends (including those with disabilities) become more frail, they may be especially vulnerable to undesirable situations of abuse, neglect and self-neglect.

I’m very glad that so many of you have written in to show support for the Bill, and even offered suggestions on how we can improve on certain aspects of the Bill.

The provisions in the Bill enhance protection for our vulnerable family members. I’m sure you have read the Aesop’s Fable “The Bundle of Sticks” before. It’s the familiar story about how you can’t break sticks in a bundle, but you can break them easily when they are singled out.

This fable teaches an important lesson about strength in unity. And by applying that to the context of our family, we understand that close-knit families are stronger together.

Our families see us at our best and worst, through our joys and sorrow. They share with us their successes and happiness, and are always our first line of support whenever we need help.

And by extension, there can be a transformative effect when we all play a part to care for one another. With strong families and strong communities, we can help each better, and earlier.

Do read our press release and summary report on the Vulnerable Adults Bill public consultation at www.reach.gov.sg/vaa2016.

To Those Who Teach Children to Start Small, and Dream Big

Each day, they teach and care for the little ones. They help them to learn, and to grow.

They are our pre-school teachers.

And each day, there are stories of how they have helped little boys and girls learn a few more new words, put another step forward, and helped them to understand a bit more about the world.

NLX_ HF_ECDA-ORION-7602Bethanie Wong from Orion Preschool

When Bethanie met 3-year-old Daniel, he was barely speaking at home.
To help Daniel, Bethanie worked with his mother to learn his favourite words and songs. Then, Bethanie used those words as a conversational hook to interest Daniel into participating in class.

Within a few months, Daniel became sociable, and was able to speak in full sentences!

Ms Farhana listening intently to a child's comments.Farhana Mustafa from Bright Juniors

Alan was a child with special needs, and was having some difficulty trying to express himself. To better help Alan, Farhana took the time to attend a three-day course on speech and learning support.

Farhana used Alan’s interests in music and movement to slowly expand his vocabulary. Over time, Alan was learning to form sentences with more words – from two, to four, and then to six.

Like Bethanie and Farhana, many other pre-school teachers go the extra mile. Some of them even enter this field from other job industries, because they felt a calling to help children have the best possible start in life.

14079578_1195466487162791_7724903438978079209_nReally love children at this age 😊

To all pre-school teachers, thank you. This day is for you, who make that positive difference in the lives of children. You guide them in their small, starting steps. And you teach them to dream big.

Thank you for making a positive difference in the lives of our little ones. I wish you Happy Teachers’ Day. 😊