They rescue, protect, care for the child and help to rehabilitate the child and family.
The Social Welfare Department's primary role is to save, protect, care and help rehabilitate the child and the child's family. Every Social Welfare Officer authorised as a protector is expected to adhere to strict guidelines on child protection procedures (Section 8 of Child Act 2001).
STEP BY STEP PROCEDURES
LESS SERIOUS CASES
- When the department receives a report of a child sexual abuse case or a suspected case, the Social Welfare Officer will gather information about the abuse. This will include details such as:
- The child's name as stated in the birth certificate or identification card and the child's current home address
- The offender's name and relationship with the child
- Names of the child's parents/guardian and their I.C. numbers
- Once the level of abuse has been established, the Social Welfare Officer will then take appropriate action depending on the severity of the abuse or the suspected abuse.
- A "less serious" case is when there is no need for immediate rescue of the child, and the child is supervised with regular visits to the home.
- The Social Welfare Officer interviews the child and the parents/guardian to gather information about the child's background, for a Child Protection Report.
- Upon receiving a report, the Social Welfare Officer will make a visit to the child's home to interview the child and whoever is present there. Deciding whether the child is to be removed or not is based on the Officer's discretion about the case.
- If there is reasonable suspicion, the parents/guardian will be advised to take the child for treatment and medical examination within 72 hours of the incident. The Social Welfare Officers have the authority to take the child for a medical examination after the child's parents are informed.
- However, parental consent is NOT necessary for the Social Welfare Officer to take the child away for a medical examination. They can be accompanied by the Social Welfare Officer if support is needed. The objective of the examination is to certify whether or not the child has been sexually abused.
- Counselling will be provided to the child and the parents/guardian by the Social Welfare Officers. Counselling will be held at a place where the child feels comfortable, either at the Welfare Office, the child's home or on neutral ground.
- All action taken by the Social Welfare Officers will be discussed with the parents/guardian and recorded in a case file. Home visits will be conducted once to twice a week to ensure the child's well-being.
- The Social Welfare Officer is responsible for counselling and supporting the family.
- A "serious case" is when immediate rescue of the child from the home and transfer to a place of safety is necessary.
- Firstly, the Social Welfare Officer will visit the place of abuse immediately. The purpose of this visit will be explained to the parents/guardian of the child.
- If the parent/guardian refuses to allow the Social Welfare Officer into the home to see the child, the Social Welfare Officer can seek Police help (Section 109 of the Child Act 2001)
- If the offender is the parent/guardian, the child will be rescued and placed in a safe home, such as a relative's home or a children's home.
- The Social Welfare Officer will take the child to the Hospital for a medical examination and treatment. This examination is to ascertain whether or not the child has been sexually abused.
- The Social Welfare Officer can exercise his or her discretion as to whether to take the child to be examined by a Medical Officer. However, all children who are placed in a children's home must first be examined by a Medical Officer.
- Once the Social Welfare Officer suspects a case of abuse, a Police report will be made. The safety of the child always comes first.
- If necessary, the Social Welfare Officer will need to obtain a temporary Protection Order from the Magistrate of the Juvenile Court (within 24 hours of the report of the abuse) to enable the child to be placed in a safe environment or under the care of a qualified person. The child has to be present in court.
- The duty of a Social Officer is to investigate the welfare of the child and to compile a Social report of the child. A Social report will be prepared and presented to the Juvenile Court to enable the magistrate to provide Protection Order if necessary. The Social Welfare Officer makes all decisions regarding necessary actions to be taken to protect the child.
- The Social Welfare Officer will continue to support the child and the child's family. This includes home visits, counselling, and other necessary help e.g. financial assistance.
- Wherever possible, counselling and supervision of the child will be carried out to reconcile the child with his or her family.
- If the situation of the family improves, a Revocation Order can be used to allow the child to be returned to the parents/guardian. The child will then be supervised for a certain period as stated in the order.
NOTE: How "serious" the abuse is classified in no way pre-determines the child's response. Each child is an individual who will react or respond to what has been done to him or her in his or her own way. No two responses are identical.
The Officer-in-Charge will introduce himself or herself to the child and the parents, and ensure that a proper investigation is carried out.
If possible, the Social Welfare Officer will conduct a personal interview with the child. If the child feels uncomfortable and needs assistance, the parent/guardian may be allowed to accompany the child at the discretion of the Social Welfare Officer, who may also allow a teacher or counsellor to be present at the interview.
The child will not be forced to answer any question they are not comfortable with. If necessary, the Social Welfare Officer will find a suitable time for another interview.
Interviews are conducted when the child feels comfortable to talk.