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Sun, Aug 15, 2010
The New Paper
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My mummy is at work

SHE is due to start Primary 1 next year, but whether six-year-old Sarah will be able to go to school is now unclear.

Her mother has not been in touch with her for the past seven months, and no one is able to register her as she does not have a legal guardian.

The child has also not been attending kindergarten since her mother left her early this year.

Sarah last saw her mother, a 27-year-old pub manager, on Jan 1.

From the time she was born, Sarah had been left in the care of various family members and friends whenever her mother, a single parent, had to work. But this is the first time the girl has not seen or heard from her mother for so long.

She is being cared for by her aunt, who is barely an adult. Jane, 18, said that despite her repeated pleas, Sarah's mother, Kate, has not shown up to take her child back.

Since January, Jane has communicated with Kate only through SMS.

We are not using their real names as a minor is involved.

Sarah has not been going to kindergarten because Kate has not told Jane which school she attends.

"She only said it's a private school," Jane said. "When (Sarah) sees other young children in school uniform and carrying school bags, she'll say, 'I used to go to school before'."

The New Paper's calls to Kate's mobile phone went unanswered.

Jane said that Kate, who's her half-sister, called her on New Year's Day to ask her to baby-sit Sarah as she had to work.

Now the teenager is at her wits' end. She needs to look for a job to support herself but is stuck with Sarah.

No one in her family wants or is able to take over the responsibility, Sarah told The New Paper at her two-room rental flat near Balestier last Friday night.

So little Sarah, for now at least, is nobody's child. Born out of wedlock, she does not know who her father is. He, too, does not know of her existence, Jane said. "(Kate) had many boyfriends.

She told our grandmother that (Sarah's) father is a married man and they broke up after she got pregnant," she said. Kate never told the man about their child.

The father's name in Sarah's birth certificate is left blank, Jane said.

Sarah seemed to have come up with her own way to deal with the unanswered questions in her mind. Asked where her mother is, Sarah turned away and looked at the Hello Kitty toy in her lap. "Working," she said softly.

The answer sounds almost rehearsed, one she's told herself and others countless times. Asked where her daddy is, she smiled, but answered in the same practised tone. "Working," she said.

Said Jane: "Since she came here, she's been giving different answers whenever I ask her who or where her father is."

Once, she said that her father was in Japan.

Another time, she said her father was dead.

She has also been more exposed to adult matters than someone her age should be, Jane added.

"She can describe what her mother and boyfriends did (when they got intimate) because she would see everything they did," she said.

Before she moved in to stay with Jane, Sarah lived with her mother in a rented room in a Punggol flat. She would constantly ask for her mother when she first moved in with Jane. "I would tell her that her mummy's working," Jane said.

"After a while, she stopped asking so often." Still, whenever Jane or other family members mentioned Kate in Sarah's presence, her ceaseless chatter would stop. "She's very smart," she said.

"Sometimes, she'll ask us to call the police to look for her mother." Jane added that Sarah can be "very clingy".

Sarah's tendency to form emotional attachments quickly was apparent as the interview drew to a close after 11/2 hours.

Looking serious, she asked this reporter: "Are you going already?" When told the answer, she kept silent as her face grew more solemn.

It was only when farewells were exchanged that a slight, sad, smile broke across her face as she said goodbye.

Case not so simple: Lawyer

EACH time Jane asked her half-sister Kate when she was taking her daughter back, all she got was a non-commital answer - if at all.

"She would just say she was busy and that she would come in a few days," Jane said.

Sometimes, Kate would say that she was overseas or that her boss had run away with her money. And always, she would tell Jane - via SMS, the only way they communicated - to wait a while more.

In their last SMS exchange, Jane threatened to send Sarah to a home as she needed to look for a job.

"It was only then that she replied. She asked me to work for her (in her pub) and she said she would get someone to look after Sarah," Jane said.

When told about Sarah's case, criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan said that it was not clear under the law whether Sarah's mother had abandoned her child.

"This case is not so straightforward, unlike instances where the parent dumped the child in a public place," he said.

"In Sarah's case, her mother had left her in the care of a relative. Maybe she had her reasons for not being able to visit the child or take her back."

He advised Jane to contact the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports for help in caring for the child. Jane said she is not close to her half-sister and had seen her only twice in the last six years.

But when Kate said she could not find anyone to take care of her little girl, Jane agreed to help. After all, it was supposed to be for only one night.

Kate had passed her only one set of clothes for Sarah's stay. Jane and Kate's father is an engineer. His first wife - Kate's mother, a Thai woman - left home when Kate was a child.

She never saw her mother again. Both girls have been disowned by their father. Kate, for running away from home and Jane, for quitting school in her teens to work in a billiard saloon. Jane told her paternal grandmother about her situation four months ago.

Her grandmother used to mind Sarah and doted on her. But her father's siblings disliked Kate and stopped her grandmother from caring for Sarah, Jane claimed. Besides, Jane's grandmother died over a week ago, at 78.

In May, The New Paper reported that Jane's mother, 52, a habitual glue-sniffer, was arrested for sniffing glue. She will be in jail until December.

Jane has an elder sister, who with a cousin, support her and Sarah. But she cannot continue to depend on the pair, who are in their 30s. "They have their own families to take care of," she added.

Counsellors: More parents 'passing buck'

MORE parents are not only abdicating their parental duties, they are more brazen about it, counsellors told The New Paper.

Ms Sheena Jebal, CEO and founder of NuLife Care & Counselling Services, said she has noticed more parents who are passing the buck to others like herself. This year, three parents of children who she counsels asked her to let their kids live with her for up to two years, said Ms Jebal, a counsellor of 16 years.

Such cases may sound extreme, but they are a growing trend: Parents who lack parenting skills and cannot relate to their children. Worse, they refuse to invest time to learn how to talk to their children.

So they hand their duties to other family members, usually the child's grandparents or, if they can afford it, the maid. Others have tried to leave their charges at Ms Jebal's centre.

"If they ask once or twice, we try to help, but some do it many times," she said. Madam Lee Yean Wun, principal social worker at the Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre, said it is often the caregiver who's saddled with the child.

"The parents...would have just left the child with a relative and disappeared."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments
Sarah deserves a family. Do hope the Ministry will step in to help.

This really makes my heartache seeing Sarah is all alone defending herself.

I wish I can help Sarah one way or another.
Posted by cujay69 on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 22:47 PM
I am truly sadden to hear about this girl. If the mother cannot cope with her please give her up for adoption. She deserve better and i am sure many loving adult would let her feel wanted. She is showing signs that she needs to be love by adult.

Please let her feel that people love and want her....
Posted by icemanV on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 20:44 PM
So sad for an child born without parental care. Wonder what will the child quality of life be? Make sure doesn't follow her mother way of living. A wrong value to the child. She should care for by responsible and those who can provided her an education and independent life when she grown up...;(
Posted by daveng10 on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 16:58 PM
In previous singapore where we dont bring in many foreigners to hook up with our locals citizen....and such cases is not worsen.

Now what the brother want? more babies? and 200,000 is coming what will happen soon?

Ask yourself? this i what e end up...

I have seen many such cases in my it is not surprise...there are just a batch of lost human survivie dayily till death at anytime...ther thinking is very narrow...

To enjoy first then throw away what is no value now for surviving.

So who to blame ???

National day!!! we try to show ppl outside Singapore hoe good we dare to show all these cases also??

it is all about a SHOW.

Down the roads.....we will see .....
Posted by JusticeVin on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 14:54 PM
Such a sad but regularly occurring story. I just hope that MCYS help Sarah in whatever way possible to get her a life she deserve. I would also suggest that DivaAsia continue to track this child's story at regular interval so that interested readers like me could know what has happened after this article is published. If there is any assistance possible, also please let us readers know. May God bless Sarah.
Posted by OrdinaryCitizen on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 14:41 PM
It is most heart wrenching to hear such situation especially with a little girl whom yearns for love and care. I hope the authority can do something to help such cases.

Just as "honda879z" had mentioned there are many loving and responsible adults who is most happy to care for her.

So the Authority please help this little girl.
Posted by ticktockmen on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 14:18 PM
Dear AsiaOne Diva

A wrenching story for sure. A story of 'choice'. Wrong choice probably judging from the outcome thus far.

An eventful childhood with the parents splitting. Half-sister.

Probably decided to live her life any-old-how since it is not really important to her. Hence, many boyfriends. Hence, pregnancy. Then made the WRONG decision to have the baby. Though, probably, again, thinking that it is the RIGHT thing to do!!

Did she get any help during the growing up time and when the initial waywardness appeared? The report did not touch on this. Did she get any help when she had the baby? Don't know either. Did she realize she need to learn to making better decision and take control of her life? Did she tried but failed? etc, etc...

Maybe a little bit .....
Posted by Lukeehong on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 13:31 PM
Irresponsible mother. A 27 year old pub manager who wants to have fun. :mad:
Posted by asia_twotwo on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 13:21 PM
can the child be adopted? Many responsible adults would love to adopt her and give her a good home, education and love.
Posted by honda879z on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 12:30 PM
what a sad situation for any mother to abandon their child.a childs is an innocent person and should never be placed in such a situation to be left for uncare and unlove. just think of the consequenes when she grows up into adult.shewil turn into rebel, and produces more sibling in a similar manner.than society as such will have to bear the trouble of looking after abandon children.
Posted by jasperconnor on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 at 11:07 AM

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