Children

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Definitions and Scope

Target Population: Children

The world 'Child' (plural: Children) is used to define a human being between infancy and youth. [1]It may also be used to describe a relationship with human parents (son or daughter). Legally, 'Child' is used to establish a clear distinction of age so as to withhold or accord legal responsibility and protection. The age of majority in Singapore is 21 but there is no single threshold age of majority for all purposes. The definition of child in Singapore differs under specific legislations.

The Children and Young Person Act (CYPA) 2001 defines a “child” as a person below the age of 14 and “young person” as a person who is between 14 and 16 years of age. A male or female person who is 7 years of age or above but below the age of 16 years is also termed a 'juvenile'. [2] The act provides for the welfare, care, protection and rehabilitation of children and young persons who are in need of such care, protection or rehabilitation. It also regulates homes for children and young persons and consolidate the law relating to children and young persons.

The Employment Act defines a “child” and a “young person” similarly as the CYPA. [3]

The Women’s Charter [4] defines “a child” as a child of the marriage who is below 21 years, and a “minor” as “a person who is below the age of 21 years and who is not married, or a widower or a widow”. Under the women's charter, any person who has carnal knowledge of a girl below the age of 16 years, except by way of marriage, is guilty of an offence. Under section 375 of the Penal Code, a man is liable for an offence of statutory rape (and more) if he has sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 14 years even with her consent. Section 377D of the Penal Code also states that sexual offenders above the age of 21 cannot claim ignorance or mistaken belief about the victim's age as a defence, while those below 21 years can, if that person is of the opposite sex, and if the offender has not committed any similar sexual offences before.[5]

Under the Penal Code, a person under 7 years of age will not be held criminally responsible for his or her actions. The state will need to prove criminal capacity for a person between 7 and 12 years of age. [6]

The Minimum Legal Age (MLA) for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products is currently 18 but will be progressively raised to 19 in 2019, 20 in 2020 and 21 in 2021. [7] The legal age to buy and/or consume alcohol in licensed premises in Singapore is 18. [8] The legal age to apply for a driving license in Singapore is also 18. [9]

Singapore acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1995, a treaty which comprehensively provides for the rights of children. The UNCRC defines a “child” as someone below the age of 18.[10]

It is therefore evident that the age distinct definition of 'Child' in Singapore differs under specific situations. However the constant in all of these situations is a consensus that children have not yet reached full maturity of development and deserve the protection of a significant adults/guardians and society as well as the withholding of the rights and responsibilities accorded to that of an adult. This reflects a certain vulnerability associated with the state of childhood and that it is a separate state of being as opposed to adulthood. Children are therefore classified as vulnerable group in society.

Size of the Problem

There are 303693 children below 14 years of age in Singapore and 122911 juveniles aged between 15 to 19 based on the national census in 2017. [11] Within these populations are various groups experiencing a wide range of issues and needs.

The Singapore Children's Society surfaced the following as the most pressing problems as experienced by Singapore children experience:

  • Mental Heath, Socio-emotional resilience and suicide amongst children and youth
    • Depression and anxiety are on the rise amongst children and youth.[12] Between 2013 and 2014, self harm cases increased 15% amongst children under 14 years old in Singapore. [13]
    • According to an Agape report, 1 out of 50 children in Singapore have experienced suicidal thoughts; 1 out of 200 have attempted suicide. [14]

Client Segments

Page to Children facing Mental Health Challenges

Page to Children from Low Income Families

Page to Childcare and Parenting

Page to Children and Bullying

Page to Child Abuse

Desired impact for target group

A childhood free of abuse and neglect where basic physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs are met.

Needs of Children in Singapore


Need for affordable, accessible and quality early childhood education

Average cost of early childhood education is about $1k but premium brands charge up to twice the amount (ST 18 Sep 2017) There could be a better balance between profit and social equity in this sector. Besides the issues of accessibility and affordability, Singapore also needs to raise standards of quality in preschool education. (Lien Report 2012)

Quality is heavily dependent on early childhood educators, in terms of the standards of their curriculum and teaching. Singapore currently faces a demand crunch in qualified and committed preschool educators, most especially, 'a bigger pool of preschool Chinese teachers, in order to build a stronger bilingual foundation for young children' (Today 11 Aug 2017) There is also a need to look into retaining teachers in this sector given the high attrition rates. (Today 8 November 2013)


Existing Resources

In order to centralise and raise professional standards of early childhood educators National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) has been set up. NIEC will provide the full range of diploma and certificate programmes for pre-school professionals under one institution.

Gaps and Their Causes

Dr Chan Lin Ho, a senior lecturer in early childhood education at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), said pricing is not a reliable indicator of quality, which also encompasses how adults interact with children at a pre-school (ST 18 Sep 2017)

Possible Solutions

Dr Theresa Lu, SUSS' head of early childhood education programmes, added that pre-schools that do not have extensive facilities can use resources in the neighbourhood "to provide the extension of learning experiences for children beyond their classrooms" (ST 18 Sep 2017)


Need for adequate parenting

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

-Licensing and monitoring of parents: LaFollette (2010) on a licensing system for parents. However, this risks wrongly categorizing some parents as incompetent parents since there is no perfect predictive instrument. Monitoring of parents will allow balance of the values of privacy and of protecting children from harm. (See Allyn Fives, 2017 Evaluating Parenting Power: chapter 8 on Licensing, monitoring and training of parents)


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Existing Resources Gaps & Their Causes Solutions

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Resource Directory

Mainly I Love Kids (MILK)

http://www.milk.org.sg/

Social Care Institute for Excellence (UK)

Independent charity that identifies and shares knowledge about what works and what’s new, with huge focus on children's services

https://www.scie.org.uk/