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Social Work and Family Services

In Singapore, a Confucian emphasis (Khan, 2001) on the family as the fundamental unit of society is emphasized by the government in nation-building discourses. This emphasis on family well-being and society continues to be the theme for
discourse on the development of social services in the next 10 years (Mohamad, 2009). Singapore has also been deemed to be a patriarchal society that upholds traditional and conservative values emphasizing the role of the family rather than dependence on the state (Ganapathy, 2006). The cultural context of Singaporeans is heavily influenced by communal values, and family ties are prized (Leong, 1999, cited in Kee, 2004). The value and importance of children and young people feature prominently within this context. Although there are some sociocultural differences among the different ethnic groups in Singapore, there are also many similarities. State, community, and ethnic-based social services reflect these common dominant themes, such as the following:

1. The importance of interconnectivity, the nesting of the individual, the family, the community, and the nation;

2. The importance of education for upward mobility;

3. The importance of individual and community involvement in personal and national well-being, the many-helping-hands approach;

4. The importance of self-reliance as the first line of defense against challenges

and external help only as a backup; and

5. The importance of developing basic building blocks in society (e.g., family unity, social security, future-orientation) through citizen-oriented programs.

In a multicultural context, there are some core values and principles of social interaction and behaviour that are shared among Singaporeans regardless of ethnic background and are the foundations for many of the social policies and social service programs in Singapore. The government together with the various ethnic communities worked together to identify these core family values. Since 1994, the Singapore Family Values has been strongly promoted and officially endorsed as the backdrop for social policies and family support and intervention (MCDYS, 2002). These Singapore Family Values are love, care, and concern; commitment to one's family; filial responsibility; mutual respect; and, communication. Traditionally, respect and communication tend to be unidirectional from the elder to the younger but with exposure to increasingly egalitarian social values supported through the media and education for all, mutual respect among individuals, including children and parents, is increasingly seen as a positive step towards generating better family and social harmony. In spite of the current emphasis on the rights of the child and the growing acceptance of a more egalitarian approach to social relationships, some traditional principles of social behaviour still govern the interaction of the average Singaporeans.

State of the Family in Singapore

Family Service Centers (FSC) are community-based social service providers located in the neighborhood in order to render social services more accessible to the public. Currently, there are 36 FSCs located in various parts of Singapore
with more expected to be opened in the next few years to cater to the growing population from 4 million in 2000 to 4.8 million in 2008 (DYS, 2009).

All FSCs provide the following core services:

1. Casework and counselling, for example, marital counselling, child management, family violence, financial problems, and other interpersonal difficulties;

2. Information and referral – as a first-stop community-based service provider,

FSCs act as links to other community resources and specialist agencies; and

3. Volunteer development – FSCs provide volunteer opportunities for members of the community to participate and assist in the provision of social services such as in elderly befriending; tuition programs for school children; reading programs, especially for those from low-income, nonEnglish speaking homes; and mentoring of children and youth at risks.

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