BJJ v Child Protector

CourtJuvenile Court (Singapore)
JudgeEdgar Foo
Judgment Date05 July 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] SGJC 3
Citation[2013] SGJC 3
Publication Date14 January 2016
Docket NumberMA No 131/2013/01
Plaintiff CounselMr Jay Lee, State Counsel
District Judge Edgar Foo: Introduction

This was an application made by the Child Protection Services (“CPS”), Family and Child Protection and Welfare Branch, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore (“MSF”) pursuant to Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap 38) (“the Act”) seeking care and protection orders for one B, female, born on XXX (“the child”) against her natural mother, BJJ (“the mother”).

I heard the application on 23 May 2013 and reserved my decision to 6 June 2013. On 6 June 2013, I made the following orders:- That the child be committed to a place of safety, namely XXX for a period of 6 months, under Section 49(1)(c) of the Act; That the mother be ordered to enter into a bond of $1,000 to exercise proper care and guardianship of the child for a period of 6 months, under Section 49(1)(a) of the Act; That the child’s direct or indirect contacts with the mother and any significant persons be subject to the approval and review of the Approved Welfare Officer (“AWO”) for a period of 6 months, under Section 49(2) of the Act; That Mdm K (“the grandmother”) to have regular contacts with the child and the nature and frequency of such contacts be subject to the approval and review by the AWO for a period of 6 months, under Section 49(2) of the Act; That the mother be ordered to comply with the rules and regulations of XXX for a period of 6 months, under Section 49(2) of the Act; That the mother to attend any psychiatric/psychological assessment/therapy and/or parenting programme as deemed necessary by the AWO for a period of 6 months, under Section 51(1) of the Act; That the child to receive any services that are deemed necessary by the AWO and to undergo counselling/therapy/programme to assist her to cope with mother’s psychiatric condition for a period of 6 months, under Section 51(1) of the Act; and That the mother to enter into a bond of $1000 to comply with the aforesaid order for a period of 6 months, under Section 51(2) of the Act.

The mother being dissatisfied has appealed against my decision.

Background

The mother is the primary caregiver and attachment figure of the child. The father of the child had left the family when the child was in kindergarten and he has not been involved in her care since then. The child was mainly taken care of by the grandmother from the age of 7 to 12 and she returned to stay with her mother only after her Primary School Leaving Examinations.

In January 2012, the mother filed an application for a Personal Protection Order (“PPO”) against the child. The Family Court felt that it was not appropriate to issue a PPO against a 13 ½ year old child and referred the child to the Beacon Works Programme for counselling. In the course of the counselling, under the Beacon Works Programme, concerns arose over the physical and emotional abuse that the child was subject to by the mother and the child was referred to the CPS in March 2012.

On the issue of physical abuse, there were allegations that the mother had kicked the child’s head and body from 2008 to 2009. In 2010, the child was brought to XXX (“XXX”) to receive a few stitches on her head as the mother had allegedly hit the child’s head with a bunch of keys. In 2012, the mother had allegedly hit the child on her face causing the child to have a nose bleed. It was also reported that whenever arguments between the mother and the child became heated, the mother would beat the child using her hands, slap her and pull her hair. They would also throw things like slippers and pens at each other.

On the issue of emotional abuse, it was reported that the mother was always telling the child that she was disobedient, very rude and beyond the mother’s control. The mother would disallow the child to attend school as a form of punishment for having an “attitude problem” and she would confiscate the child’s hand-phone and keys and expect her to return home immediately after school. The mother’s controlling behaviour would escalate from removing television privileges to disallowing her from attending school and isolating her at home. During arguments, the mother would hurl vulgarities at the child and liken her to a prostitute. The mother would also subject the child to suicide threats. Even for the Beacon Works Programme, the mother would accompany the child for counselling and monitor her interaction with the counsellor. The mother would follow the child to school every day and wait for her in school during breaks. This resulted in the child running away from home in order to cope with the mother’s irrational behaviour and since January 2011, the child has run away about 7 to 8 times, each ranging from a day to 2 weeksi.

When CPS tried to engage the mother over their concerns about her parenting methods on the child’s physical and emotional well-being, she refused to be engaged and insisted that she did not want CPS’s involvement. Instead, she externalised her family situation on the child’s bad behaviourii.

In view of the above, CPS decided to filed this application and DJ Lim Keng Yeow called for a Social Report and passed the following interim orders on 15 August 2012:- That the child be placed under the care of a Fit Person, namely Ms W, Manager of XXX, for a period of 3 months under Section 49(1)(b) of the Act; That the mother to enter into a bond of $1000 each to exercise proper care and guardianship of the child under Section 49(1)(a) of the Act; That the child’s access with the mother and any significant persons to be subject to the approval and review by the AWO under Section 49(2) of the Act; That the mother be mandated to attend any psychiatric/psychological assessment/therapy and/or parenting plan as deemed suitable by the AWO under Section 51(1) of the Act; and That the mother to enter into a bond of $1000 to comply with the aforesaid order under Section 51(2) of the Act. DJ Lim Keng Yeow also fixed the matter for further hearing on 9 November 2012.

At the hearing on 9 November 2012, I received the Social Reportiii from the CPS and I had concerns over the mother’s psychiatric state. I noted that there was a report from Ms O, Clinical Psychologist from the Clinical and Forensic Psychology Branch, MSF (“the psychologist”) and the psychologist had indicated that ” [the mother] expressed that most people, including members of her family have malevolent motives … [the mother’s] suspicion of others has led her to her hostility, strained familial relations and limited social connectedness.” The psychologist also reported that “[the mother’s] general suspiciousness of others is likely to have an impact of her parenting capacity… [The mother] has limited insight as to the possible impact of her actions on the child and … [the mother’s] clinical presentation is consistent with her scores on the Brief Symptom inventory wherein she endorsed elevated levels of paranoid ideation.iv” I therefore ordered the child to remain residing at XXX for another 2 months and for the mother to undergo a psychiatric assessment at XXX (“XXX”) to assess her mental state before making my final order. I also fixed the matter for further hearing on 4 January 2013.

At the further hearing on 4 January 2013, the CPS presented a Review Reportv and also informed me that the psychiatric report on the mother is not ready and that it would take approximately 6 months for a full assessment and psychiatric report to be prepared on the mother. The mother also informed me that she disputed the contents of both the Social Report and the Review Report and that she intends to contest CPS’s application.

I then proceeded to fix the matter for pre-trial conference and also gave directions to parties to file their affidavits and to prepare for the hearing. I also advised the mother to engage lawyers to help her with her case but the mother did not want to engage any lawyer to represent her and chose to act in personvi. In the meanwhile, I also continued to extend the interim orders made by DJ Lim Keng Yeow for the child to remain residing at XXX pending the outcome of this matter.

The Child Protector’s case

CPS’s case against the mother is based on 2 grounds. Firstly, CPS is saying that the child is need of care and protection under Section 4(d)(i) of the Act because the child has been, is being or is at risk of being ill-treated by her mother. Secondly, CPS is saying that the child is need of care and protection under Section 4(g) of the Act because there exist serious and persistent conflicts between the mother and the child whereby their family relationship is seriously disrupted thereby causing the child emotional injury.

CPS is relying of the following in support of their case against the mother :- The Complaint filed by the Child Protection Officer, Ms V (“the CPO”) dated 15 August 2012vii; The 1st affidavit of the CPO sworn on 13 March 2013viii which contained the following:- Social Report prepared by the CPO dated 1 November 2012ix (“the Social Report”); The Review Report prepared by the CPO dated 29 December 2012x (“the Review Report”); The Progress Report from XXX prepared by Ms N, the counsellor (annexed to the Social Report)xi; The Summary of Assessment Findings on the child prepared by the psychologist dated 1 November 2012xii; The Summary of Assessment Findings on the mother by the psychologist dated 11 October 2012xiii; A Medical Report on the mother by Dr S (“the psychiatrist”), Consultant Psychiatrist from the XXX (“XXX”) dated 7 January 2013xiv; The 2nd affidavit of the CPO sworn on 23 April 2013xv The affidavit of W, the Manager of XXX, affirmed on 23 April 2013xvi; The affidavit of the psychiatrist affirmed on 23 April 2013xvii which contained:- His Medical Report on the mother dated 7 January 2013xviii; and His Clarification dated 28 January 2013xix; A Further Update from the psychiatrist dated 29 May 2013xx.

The Child...

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