Is it right for a government contractor, financed by hundreds of millions of dollars from the Social Welfare Department, to transfer a 3 year-old child into the care of a destitute refugee woman without adequate support? What if the woman met the girl only a few days earlier?
Several months ago Vision First raised a complaint with SWD about a little girl who showed up at our office unwanted by the refugee carers who were stuck with her after the mother was jailed for 18 months for working illegally, possibly to raise a daughter in this expensive city.
Presumably the SWD has operating procedures for its child services department tasks to provide assistance for young children whose parents are incarcerated and who, after the age of 3, are no longer allowed to stay in prison with a parent. This is what happened to Precious.
Two refugee friends of the incarcerated mother anxiously sought our assistance and we raised our concerns with the SWD, as we didn’t have resources to care for children, particularly of such a young age without parents. The women complained that ISS-HK had entrusted them with Precious without providing adequate assistance to look after and care for her day and night.
Last week a third refugee mother produced an ISS-HK document stating, “This care giving agreement is made out of good will and compassion to the child as there is no other person or institution that can look after the child while her mother is restricted to provide care and custody in view of detention. This agreement includes care giving to the child, collection of her food … accessing health care facilities when the child needs medical treatment, escorting child in reporting to ISS-HK for contract renewal.”
The agreement fails to mention the countless tasks a parent performs in child-care: cooking, cleaning, bathing, clothing, playing, talking, teaching, putting to bed … and generally paying full attention to the wellbeing and happiness of children. Any parent will agree that caring for children is a never-ending obligation typically performed at great personal sacrifice.
Why was Precious entrusted to a refugee women she had never met before? Assuming the women is wonderful (she is), is it right for a child to live in a tiny partitioned room without ventilation, kitchen, bathroom or even a functioning TV? Is the women expected to cook, bath and cloth and share a single bed with a little girl who is not her daughter? Is she expected to provide motherly care as a destitute refugee without financial assistance? How can the women travel on her daily routine without even a child Octopus card?
Would this be an acceptable treatment for resident children in the care of SWD?