As one of the appointed Integrated Service Providers (ISP) in Singapore, Singapore Children’s Society runs differentiated programmes. Some of these include the Enhanced STEP-UP (ESU), Guidance Programme (GP), and Youth Enhanced Supervision (YES) Programme, among others. These programmes aim to curtail offending and prevent re-entry to the offending cycle by focusing on early identification and diversion for youth offenders. The Society serves clients residing in Toa Payoh, Bishan, Novena, Kallang, Rochor, Kreta Ayer and Bukit Merah.

A senior counsellor with Youth Service @ Children’s Society, Rozana Komari shares that oftentimes, youth offenders are just misguided and need a helping hand to get back on the right track. Here is what she has to say.

Rozana at work during a session with a Guidance Programme client

I have been working with youth for more than a decade and it has not always been an easy journey understanding their challenges and life stories. Fortunately, I love working with youth and appreciate their sharing and honesty.

I am currently a senior counsellor with Youth Service @ Children’s Society. The clients that I am seeing were referrals under YES, GP and ESU. They have different sets of issues such as substance abuse, committing acts of violence, theft or having poor attendance in school. The work may not involve only youth themselves, but can include partnering their family, school, employer and other social service agencies.

I have had many learning experiences and memories, particularly of clients under YES and GP. One client was a high achiever in school, did well in sports and had a close relationship with his family. He made a huge mistake by agreeing to abuse cannabis with some of his schoolmates. This resulted in his expulsion from school, just when he was expected to sit for his final examinations in a few months. Fortunately, his parents were supportive and found another way for him to complete his studies so that he would be able to sit for his pre-university examinations.

Despite the new school placement, the client was unmotivated to do any of the activities he used to love as he felt that his life was ruined due to his foolish mistake. This regret and guilt is seen in many youths who come into this programme. This is where our work with them is crucial, to help them build a renewed sense of hope, steer them towards new goals, and build a new sense of self-identify and worth. This is done through a combination of group and individual sessions to address the client’s risk factors and needs, and to strengthen his or her prosocial thinking and life skills to prevent reoffending.

By the end of our YES sessions, the client had sat for his final examinations and excelled in most of his subjects. I was happy and surprised when he came to visit me a few months later, telling me about his eligibility to enrol with an overseas university. It was a humbling experience as he thought of me even after the programme had ended and wanted to thank me personally.

The youth we work with committed an offence at a young age, and instead of being shunned, they were given a chance to mend their mistakes. Through the programmes we provide, they are given the opportunity and platform to identify supportive resources and strengthen their narratives to sustain their change. With positive guidance and coping strategies, all of them have the potential to move towards making more responsible life choices and steer away from re-offending.

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Click here to read the story in Chinese.

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