A Complete Guide To Beyond Parental Control In Singapore & The Shift To Family Guidance Orders

by | Jun 18, 2024 | Knowledge & Insights

Singapore’s approach to handling cases involving challenging family dynamics, particularly those concerning children deemed beyond parental control, has undergone significant changes.

The traditional method, known as beyond parental control (BPC) in Singapore, was designed to address situations where parents faced severe difficulties in managing their child’s behavioural issues.

These orders have been phased out and replaced by a more holistic and supportive legal framework called family guidance orders (FGO).

The Family Guidance Orders are designed to engage various stakeholders in a collaborative process, offering counselling and support instead of imposing strict punitive measures on the child.

For those searching for information on handling cases of children beyond parental control, especially individuals above 16 in Singapore, understanding the transition from BPC to FGO is crucial.

This article aims to clarify the new legal landscape, detailing what Family Guidance Orders entail, how they differ from the previous system and their implications for younger children and those above 16.

What Was Beyond Parental Control In Singapore?

Beyond parental control (BPC) orders were legal measures available in Singapore to assist parents dealing with children who exhibited uncontrollable behaviour.

The establishment of BPC orders was driven by a need to address rising concerns over juvenile delinquency in Singapore. As the nation prioritised social order and family harmony, these orders were seen as essential tools for preemptive intervention.

These orders could be sought when a parent or guardian faced significant difficulties in managing a child’s conduct to the extent that it could not be remedied through normal parental guidance.

BPC orders primarily aimed to intervene in severe cases to prevent further escalation of behavioural issues, which might lead to delinquency.

The orders authorised the Court to place the child in a place of safety, a children’s home, or under the guardianship of a suitable individual or agency to receive the necessary guidance and discipline.

The Introduction Of Family Guidance Orders

The family guidance order (FGO) is a legal measure introduced in Singapore to replace the previous beyond parental control (BPC) orders.

This change was part of broader reforms in the Children and Young Persons Act, aiming to provide a more supportive and rehabilitative approach to handling cases of children displaying challenging behaviours.

The FGO emphasises family-based resolutions and the child’s well-being, shifting focus from punitive measures to guidance and support.

Key Differences Between BPC And FGO

The shift from BPC to FGO was motivated by recognising the need for a more compassionate approach focusing on healing and reconciliation rather than coercion.

Legally, the change reflects a modern understanding of child psychology and development, which advocates for supportive interventions that engage both the child and the family.

Socially, it aligns with global trends towards protective measures for children that uphold their rights and dignity, aiming to integrate them constructively into society rather than isolating them during formative years.

Here are the five key differences between BPC and FGO:

  1. Approach: While BPC orders often result in removing the child from the home environment, FGOs focus on keeping the family unit intact and involve all family members in counselling and support services.
  2. Collaboration: FGOs require active collaboration between the child, parents, social workers and sometimes educational institutions to formulate a holistic plan that addresses the underlying issues causing the child’s behaviour.
  3. Flexibility: The FGO allows for more flexible interventions tailored to the specific needs of the child and family rather than a one-size-fits-all approach used under BPC orders.
  4. Support Services: Under FGO, the emphasis is on access to a broader range of support services, including family therapy, social worker intervention and educational support, which were not as centrally coordinated under the BPC framework.
  5. Outcome Focus: The primary goal of FGOs is the rehabilitation and emotional development of the child, aiming for long-term positive outcomes rather than immediate compliance or control, which was often the focus under the BPC orders.

Criteria For Family Guidance Order

The Youth Courts will issue a family guidance order (FGO) only if the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. Your child must be under 16 years old when the order is issued.
  2. You cannot provide adequate guidance to your child, necessitating guidance from another person.
  3. Both you and your child must have participated in a family programme unless the Court grants an exemption.
  4. You must understand the implications of the FGO and consent to its issuance.

If the Court determines that the criteria for an FGO are fulfilled, it has the authority to take one or more of the following actions:

  1. Place your child under the care of a suitable person for up to three years.
  2. Place your child in a recognised safe environment for up to three years.
  3. Put your child under the supervision of a certified welfare officer for up to three years.
  4. Require your child to participate in counselling, psychotherapy, or other specified assessments, programs, or treatments.
  5. As a parent or guardian, you might also be required to participate in these activities with your child.

Specific Considerations For Children Above 16

Children above 16 are not generally included in family guidance orders. Instead, other legal measures or support systems may be applicable depending on the situation, such as counselling or social support services.

For issues specifically involving older adolescents, different provisions under Singapore’s laws relating to juveniles and family care might be considered.

How Family Guidance Orders Work

To initiate a family guidance order (FGO), the process typically starts when parents or guardians seek assistance due to difficulties managing their child’s behaviour.

The application for an FGO can be made through the Youth Courts of Singapore. Here’s the step-by-step process:

Preliminary Steps Before Applying

  1. Engage with School Authorities: Discuss your child’s behaviour and performance with their teachers or principal. This can provide insights into underlying issues and what support might be beneficial.
  2. Seek Professional Counselling: It is advisable to consult with counselling services available through schools, Family Service Centres (FSCs), or other social service agencies. These services can offer valuable support and guidance for you and your child.
  3. Consider Psychological or Psychiatric Help: If there are indications of deeper psychological issues, professional consultations for both you and your child might be necessary.

Application Process

  1. Schedule a Pre-FGO Screening Interview: Your first step is to schedule a screening interview at an appointed agency, such as the Singapore Children’s Society or Epworth Community Services.
  2. Undergo the Initial Assessment: During the interview, agency staff will assess your situation by speaking with you and your child. They will recommend suitable family programs that may address the issues effectively.
  3. Participate in a Family Programme: Participation in a recommended family programme is a prerequisite. The outcome of this program will help you decide whether to proceed with the FGO application.
  4. Application Process: If the family programme does not lead to the desired improvements, and your child is uncooperative or refuses to participate, the agency will assist you in applying for an FGO in Court.

At your first appointment, you should bring:

    • Your identity card.
    • Your child’s birth certificate and identity card.
    • Any relevant Court orders related to custody, care, guardianship or adoption.
    • Any relevant police reports.

Important Note:

Remember, once an FGO application is filed in the Youth Courts, it cannot be withdrawn without the Court’s permission. This underscores the seriousness and finality of the decision to pursue an FGO.

Assessment By Approved Welfare Officer

Once the application is received, an approved welfare officer from an organisation like the Singapore Children’s Society is assigned to the case.

This officer conducts a thorough assessment, including home visits and interviews with the child, family and sometimes school officials.

Report Submission

The welfare officer compiles a report based on their assessment, recommending whether an FGO is appropriate and outlining suggested interventions.

Court Hearing

When you are scheduled to appear at the Youth Courts for the hearing of your family guidance order (FGO) application, there are several preparatory steps to follow:

  1. Arrival at the Venue: Ensure you arrive early to locate the correct Courtroom. Use the building directory to navigate and confirm the venue details with a Court officer if necessary.
  2. Dress Code: Dress neatly and appropriately. The Court maintains a specific dress code which you can find in the visitors’ guide; adhering to this is important.
  3. Courtroom Etiquette: Conduct yourself respectfully and Courteously within the Court premises. This includes speaking politely and maintaining proper decorum.

What To Expect During The Hearing

  1. Presentation and Review: The hearing will begin with the judge reviewing the welfare officer’s report concerning your child’s situation.
    All parties involved—typically including you, your child and legal representatives—will be able to present your perspectives.
  2. Court’s Orders: During the hearing, the judge may mandate that you and your child participate in or complete a family programme as part of the intervention process.
  3. Social Report Requirement: The judge may also request a social report on your child, which will be pivotal in determining the appropriate course of action.
    A social worker prepares this report and explains your child’s behaviour, environment and interactions.
  4. Temporary Custody Arrangement: Pending the preparation and review of the social report, the judge may order your child to stay with a designated fit person or in a place of safety to ensure their well-being.

Role Of Panel Advisers

After submitting the social report, the case will be further reviewed in consultation with two panel advisers. These advisers are:

  • Appointed by the President of Singapore.
  • Possess extensive experience in dealing with children and youth matters.

Their insights contribute significantly to the Court’s understanding and decision-making process regarding the suitability of issuing an FGO.

Important Note:

Your child must be present at the hearing as required. Failure to appear can result in a warrant of arrest being issued against them. This emphasises the importance of ensuring your child understands the seriousness of the hearing and complies with all Court directives.

Issuance Of The Order

Upon thorough review of all reports and recommendations and after discussions with the panel advisers, the judge will decide whether the conditions for issuing an FGO are met.

If the judge decides that an FGO is in the child’s best interest, the order is issued. The specifics of the order are tailored to the needs of the child and family, outlining required actions and support measures.

Roles And Responsibilities Of Parents, Children And The State Under FGO

Under a family guidance order, parents, children and the state have distinct roles and responsibilities designed to ensure the effective implementation of the order and the child’s welfare.

  1. Parents
    Parents are expected to actively participate in counselling sessions and comply with the intervention strategies set out in the FGO.
    They must collaborate with welfare officers and other professionals to support their child’s development and ensure compliance with the Court’s directives.
  2. Children
    The child is required to engage in various activities or counselling as mandated by the FGO. They must attend all scheduled sessions and work towards the behavioural goals set in collaboration with their counsellor or welfare officer.
  3. The State (via Social and Family Development, Youth Courts, Singapore Children’s Society)
    Through agencies like the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the state provides the necessary resources and oversight.
    This includes facilitating access to counselling services, educational programmes and continuous child progress monitoring. The Youth Courts ensure compliance with the FGO and can adjust the order as needed.

Conclusion About Family Guidance Orders/Beyond Parental Control In Singapore

The introduction of FGOs brings a more compassionate, inclusive and practical framework for helping young people and their families address and overcome behavioural issues together within the supportive structure of their home and community.

For families navigating these challenges, the importance of professional guidance cannot be overstated.

If you face similar issues, it is crucial to seek advice from a family lawyer in Singapore who is familiar with the legal intricacies of our country’s legal system.

At Singapore Family Lawyer, we understand the complexities of applying for a family guidance order. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation and explore the best steps forward.

Frequently Asked Questions About Family Guidance Orders/Beyond Parental Control In Singapore

What Happens If A Child Disobeys A Family Guidance Order?

If your child fails to comply with a family guidance order (FGO) Should your child fail to adhere to an FGO, the welfare officer overseeing your child’s case may initiate legal proceedings for non-compliance.

Your child could then be directed to stay at the Singapore Boys Home or Singapore Girls Home while a report is prepared about them.

The Court will review this report before making any further decisions regarding the necessary orders for your child.

Can A Family Guidance Order Be Modified Or Revoked?

Yes. A family guidance order can be modified or revoked if circumstances change significantly. Parents or guardians can petition the Court to review the order based on new evidence or changes in the child’s behaviour or family situation, and the Court will decide whether adjustments or revocation are justified.

Do I Need To Hire A Family Lawyer To Apply For A Family Guidance Order?

While hiring a family lawyer to apply for a family guidance order is not mandatory, doing so can be highly beneficial.

A family lawyer can provide expert guidance through the legal process, ensure that all documentation is correctly prepared and submitted, and represent you during Court proceedings, enhancing the chances of a favourable outcome.

How Long Does A Family Guidance Order Typically Last?

A family guidance order typically remains in effect until the Court determines it is no longer necessary, based on the child’s progress and the family’s situation.

The duration is tailored to individual circumstances, but the order is periodically reviewed to assess whether adjustments or a conclusion of the order are appropriate.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.