A 15-YEAR-OLD girl will be placed in a home after her mother declared her Beyond Parental Control (BPC).
Nothing unusual, except that in this case it was the girl herself who wanted to be placed in a home, not the mother who wanted to send her there.
May (not her real name) pleaded with her reluctant mother to send her to the Singapore Girls' Home.
The Sec 4 Normal Technical student wanted to be with her friends, some of whom, she said, had been sent there.
She also felt her mother, a pre-school teacher in her early 40s, didn't understand her.
'I want to live outside because I just can't get along with my mum,' she told The New Paper.
'Every time I say something about my friends, she tells me not to talk about my friends all the time and to concentrate on my studies, or she scolds me harshly.'
So, on 9 May, she took the drastic step of getting her mother to declare her BPC at the Juvenile Court.
Neither May nor her mother can be identified as she is still a minor.
The thought of living in a girl's home with her friends first occurred to May after she ran away from home in February.
She went missing for about 20hours, hoping it would make her mother 'try to understand' her, but things didn't change, she claimed.
She had been stealing money from her grandmother's bank account.
She admitted to withdrawing a total of $1,700 between December and last month. She was caught after her grandmother's ATM card was swallowed by the machine when she forgot the PIN number.
Her mum, who became a single parent after her husband was murdered in 1997, was against the idea of sending her to a girls' home when May first brought it up in March.
She said of her daughter: 'She doesn't understand.
'She thinks that it is a fun place to be in.
'She wanted to go, I didn't want to send her. It really breaks my heart.'
May's best friend and schoolmate, also 15, confirmed that May wanted to live in the girls' home.
She said: 'She told me about it in February. I tried to change her mind many times, but it's no use.'
May said her mum and school counsellor tried hard to dissuade her, but she stuck to the decision.
She said: 'I thought, I should just try and see.'
The mother said May would get angry at her for being too 'strict' and was also unhappy when asked to help with household chores or to get off the phone.
She said that if May had changed her mind at any point, she wouldn't have gone ahead with the BPC application.
But in the end, she too felt her daughter might benefit from state care in the long run.
May would stay out late and hang out at the void decks with boys.
'I'm afraid she will get pregnant or get a sexually-transmitted disease.
'I hope that, living in a girl's home, she will become a better person.'
She thinks one reason her daughter opted for this extreme measure is that she lacks attention.
'She told me she is lonely and there is no one to talk to because I'm at work.'
But time is scarce for the mother-of-two who juggles 12-hour work days and thrice-weekly night lessons for a diploma in pre-school education.
She lives in a three-room flat with her 65-year-old mother, who works in a laundry shop, her son, 18, who is about to enter National Service, her sister, 40, who works part-time in the travel industry, and her niece, 8.
It is a struggle as she earns about $1,440 each month and spends about $1,500 on monthly household expenses.
Her studies are mostly paid for by an NTUC grant.
She also has to contend with a knee injury and spondylolysis, a degenerative spinal condition.
Despite May's theft from her grandmother's bank account, her mother maintains she 'is not a bad child'.
She said May had spent the money mainly on treating her friends to restaurant meals and had apologised to her grandmother.
May has been placed temporarily in the Singapore Girls' Home, pending another court date early next month, in which a report will determine where she will be placed.
Her mother, who used to share her bedroom with May, misses her, despite visiting her earlier this week.
She said of her BPC decision: 'Of course I regret it, but that's what she wants.
'It was never my choice.'
BPC is last resort
A BEYOND Parental Control order is usually a last resort for juvenile non-offenders when counselling doesn't work.
Such cases are now heard by the Children Care Court, which was set up on 15 May.
This was to draw a distinction between care cases and criminal ones involving juvenile offenders.
After the complaint is heard, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports prepares a social report and makes recommendations.
The court may either place a child under statutory supervision for six months to three years or admit the child to an approved home, like the Singapore Girls' Home for two to three years.
Children under statutory supervision can live in their own homes.
Those sent to homes are classified according to their individual risk and needs.
Intervention programmes are typically three-pronged. There is counselling for residents and parents, specialised treatment or therapeutic programmes, and educational, vocational and life-skills training.
This article was first published in The New Paper on May 24, 2008.