SINGAPORE: Social workers and officers who were in contact with the family of a two-year-old girl found dead in a Chin Swee Road flat did not suspect that the child had gone missing or had come to any harm, based on what was told to them at the time.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said this on Monday (Oct 7) in response to several questions from Members of Parliament. They asked why government agencies were not aware that the child was missing, whether the family was under the watch of a ministry-appointed counsellor and what measures are in place to detect cases of potential abuse.
The parents of the toddler in the Chin Swee Road case are accused of murdering their daughter in March 2014.
The girl's remains were only found last month.
In a written reply on Monday, Mr Lee said: "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.
"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."
Mr Lee said he should not go into any specific detail as the matter is before the court.
"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," he said.
"More details will be given in court."
VARIOUS AGENCIES WERE IN TOUCH WITH FAMILY
Mr Lee said the family had contact with several government and community agencies such as the MSF Social Service Office, Child Protective Service, Home Team agencies, Ministry of Education (MOE), the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Family Service Centres.
"These 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 added.
ECDA, for instance, engaged the family as part of the pre-school outreach programme, which contacts lower-income families with children not enrolled in pre-school.
Mr Lee pointed out that MOE also has several measures to reach out to parents who did not register their children for Primary 1.
Apart from sending reminder letters, MOE also sends liaison officers to make home visits. "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 added.
Mr Lee's ministry had said last month that it is reviewing how its network of agencies and community organisations can be strengthened in the wake of the Chin Swee Road death.
The couple in question have other children, who are under alternative care arrangements.
"MSF will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure the children’s safety and welfare," Mr Lee said.
The parents, who cannot be named due to a gag order, have been remanded for psychiatric observation. The mother is serving a jail sentence of five years and two months for drug-related offences and theft.