Parents’ Guide to Beyond Parental Control Orders in Singapore
Every parent like yourself wants the best for his/her child, and sometimes loving them means going to lengths to rein in their wayward behaviour.
When your child becomes violent and uncontrollable, you may turn to the law for help — but only as a last resort.
Parents who have exhausted all available options may choose to file an application for a Beyond Parental Control (BPC) order to place their child in a rehabilitative environment that addresses their disciplinary problems.
Who Does the Beyond Parental Control Order Apply to?
Under section 50 of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA), parents can apply to the Youth Courts for a BPC order to be made against their child.
BPC cases refer to a child or young person below the age of 16 years who is:
- In persistent conflict with his/her parents and school or other authorities
- Displaying at-risk behaviour
Earlier cases of BPC orders have been issued against children and young persons who:
- Displayed high rates of truancy/were runaways
- Were associated with gangs
- Engaged in underage sex
- Displayed violent behaviour that threatened the safety of family members
What Happens If My Child Does Not Meet the Criteria for a Beyond Parental Control Order?
It is important to note that if your child is above 16 years old, he/she will be tried in the State Courts as an adult, should he/she be charged with an unlawful offence. This means that your child will be excluded from the BPC order.
However, court rulings may be lenient to offenders below 21 years of age and other rehabilitative options may still be made available to your child.
This is provided that he/she has committed a minor, first-time offence that warrants only a caution from the Police and Attorney-General’s Chambers.
What Should I be Aware of Prior to Applying for a Beyond Parental Control Order?
Parent-child relationship may be further strained
if you are considering making a BPC order against your child, beware that doing so may possibly further strain or play a part in distancing you and your child.
Sometimes, your child may develop negative emotions during the BPC process, possibly due to resentment of you choosing to place him/her in a BPC order.
Deviant behaviour may be reinforced
Additionally, there are risks associated with issuing a BPC order against your child.
Institutionalising your child into a setting that exposes him/her to other delinquents may instead reinforce deviant behaviour, should you child be influenced by his/her deviant peers.
A record of institutionalisation may be disadvantageous
Issuing a BPC order against your child will not leave him/her with a criminal record.
However, a record of institutionalisation in a youth rehabilitative centre may be disadvantageous for your child’s future prospects for employment and securing financial assistance for further education.
What are the Available Alternatives to Making a Beyond Parental Control Order?
Additionally, you should also be informed of available alternatives to issuing a BPC order.
There are many pre-court diversionary programmes that provide intervention without potentially harsh outcomes of legal recourse.
A pre-court diversionary programme provides community-based support activities tailored to address your child’s behavioural issues and limits your child’s exposure to the criminal justice system.
Your child may be eligible for the following programmes:
- The Guidance Programme: a 6-month diversionary programme also run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), for youths who have committed minor offences, in lieu of prosecution. It involves counselling and rehabilitation.
- The Youth Enhanced Supervision (YES) Scheme: a 6-month structured rehabilitation programme run by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), for first-time drug users below 21 years of age.
Another initiative which is not classified as a pre-court diversionary programme but has a similar objective includes:
- The BeaconWorks Programme: a 6-month counselling and support programme run by the Singapore Children’s Society for families with children displaying severe and consistent disciplinary issues.
When Should I Then Apply for a Beyond Parental Control Order?
Ultimately, whether a BPC order should be issued or not is dependent on whether you are still able to communicate effectively with your child.
What constitutes problematic and “out-of-control” behaviour has no clear benchmark, and you will need to prove, to the satisfaction of the court, that there is no other recourse.
You as a parent must decide if and prove that all other options to rein in your child have truly been exhausted.
How Do I Apply for a Beyond Parental Control Order?
If you have decided to apply for a BPC order against your child, you should bring him/her to the Youth Courts on Tuesday afternoons between 1.30 p.m. to 4.00 p.m (except public holidays) and register with the registration officer seated outside the Youth Courts.
Documents required for registration include:
- Your child’s birth certificate and identity card (if any)
- Your own identity card
- Court orders on custody, care and control, guardianship or adoption (if any)
- Police reports (if any)
You will also be required to fill in details of your application on a form.
Once the form has been submitted, a counsellor from the Singapore Children’s Society (SCS) will provide advice on how to move forward.
What if my child refuses/fails to attend court to proceed with the Beyond Parental Control order?
Should your child run away from home or refuse to attend court, an arrest warrant can be issued to legally oblige your child’s attendance in court.
Upon execution of the arrest warrant, your child will be brought before the Youth Court, and the presiding judge will have you confirm your intent of application.
Following this, the court will call for a social report prepared by a Child Welfare Officer from MSF.
It is important to note, however, that doing so means that your child will be treated as if he/she has committed a registrable offence (that of a summons requiring physical attendance) and will leave your child with a criminal record that may have negative repercussions in future.
When Will the Beyond Parental Control Order be Granted?
After you have made your application, you, your spouse and your child will proceed with interviews.
Your child will attend a separate interview conducted by an officer from MSF or the Singapore Children’s Society (SCS) while in remand at the Singapore Boys’ Home (SBH) or Singapore Girls’ Home (SGH).
After which your application, depending on the severity of your case, will either be affirmed in the Youth Courts for more severe cases or be referred for a pre-court diversionary programme for less severe cases.
A BPC order can be granted only when your application has been verbally and solemnly declared before the Youth Courts.
Additionally, the Youth Court will grant a BPC order when these conditions are also met:
- When you have sufficiently proven, to the courts’ satisfaction, that you are unable to control your child
- Your consent is given for any BPC order to be granted
- You are deemed sufficiently aware of the effects (discussed above) of passing such an order.
If the Youth Court needs more information to make its decision, your child may be placed in custody up to 5 weeks in a place determined by the Director of Social Welfare or an approved officer until the court has received the required information.
What Will Happen If the Beyond Parental Control Order is Granted?
If the Youth Court grants the BPC order, your child may then be:
- Legally obliged to be supervised by an approved welfare officer for a maximum of 3 years; or
- Detained in a “place of safety” or a juvenile rehabilitation centre for a maximum of 3 years (E.g. SBH or SGH and for children aged 12 – 16)
If your child is placed under statutory supervision by an approved welfare officer
Your child will be allowed to remain under your care at home, with supervision under a designated social worker from an approved social welfare organisation or government ministry.
If your child is detained in a place of safety or a juvenile rehabilitation centre
Your child will participate in a number of programmes such as:
- Physical and vocational training;
- Individual and group therapy;
- Social and recreational activities; and
- Moral and religious guidance.
If your child displays good behaviour, he/she will be placed on the Day Release Scheme which allows your child to return to work or school for classes, during the day.
What If My Child Breaches the Beyond Parental Control Order?
When your child violates any of the given orders, breach proceedings will be initiated against him/her in the Youth Courts.
If your child breached the order while under statutory supervision
If your child has been placed under statutory supervision and has failed to comply with orders, the supervising welfare officer may choose to file a complaint in the Youth Court.
You and your child will then be required to explain and respond to the complaint.
The Youth Court will also call for a progress report, and during this process may order your child to be placed in a place of safety.
Depending on the severity of the offence, the Youth Court may:
- Make a new statutory supervision order;
- Extend the current order; or
- Order your child to be sent to a place of safety for a maximum of 3 years.
If your child breached the order while detained in a place of safety or a juvenile rehabilitation centre
Your child will be given a chance to explain his/her actions.
On the condition that the Youth Court is satisfied that there is justification for the breach action, the Youth Court will then call for a progress report and re-evaluate your child.
The re-evaluation will determine if your child continues to stay at his/her current place of remand, or be moved elsewhere more suited to the nature of his or her behaviour/offence.
Depending on the severity of your child’s behaviour/offence, your child may be:
- Let off with a warning;
- Transferred to another juvenile rehabilitation centre for the remainder of the detention period; or
- If your child is between 14 to 16 years of age, he/she may also be sent to the Reformative Training Centre instead.
A BPC order should only be filed against your child if all other options have truly been exhausted.
While a BPC order is intended to provide an ideal reprieve for your child to correct his/her behavioural shortcomings, it is up to you as a parent to see that both you and your child can communicate with each other effectively and healthily, before necessitating the BPC order.