In 1991, we operated the Bukit Ho Swee Family Service Centre which was one of the first 4 pilot FSCs in Singapore. The FSC was conceptualised as a one-stop facility in response to the existing and emerging social needs of a locality. A few years later, the FSC focused on promoting the well-being of families as the basic building block of society and work with young and older people were regarded as support programmes.
Today, there are 48 FSCs positioned as community-based social work entities that provide casework and group work to address personal, social, and emotional challenges. FSCs also harness community resources to help individuals and families better support one another and they link people to appropriate resources and programmes where needed.
We no longer operate a FSC but in May, we were invited to say a few words on a commemorative video for the We Are FSC Festival. Everyone on the video was asked to interpret what the acronym FSC meant for them.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health was not on the video but in his speech at the festival he encouraged FSCs to Forge collaborations, Strengthen practices and to Care for one another.
In the video, I expressed that FSC stood for Families Seeking Care and entities could collectively regard themselves as a Family Strengthening Community. This means that families seeking care leave their visit to the FSC feeling stronger and assured that they live in a community that cares about their challenges and their well-being.
A 29-year-old father of 4 dropped by our office after signing an employment contract for his new job. He was chatty and we reminisced a little about his childhood experiences with us. He told us that he had taken on this new job despite the long commute because he wanted to provide better for his family. He recognised that wage work where he was paid at the end of each day did not interest him anymore because he had a deep desire to learn new skills.
Our conversation then turned to his children, and he lamented that his son would often act up. “Do you or your wife give him enough attention?” We probed and immediately, he replied that he always brought his son and 3 daughters out at the same time. “That may seem fair to you but maybe not to him,” we remarked. Then we reminded him how upset he was when he felt that his grandfather was giving his younger brother more attention and how he even misbehaved at school to get noticed.
He certainly remembered what we were saying and together, we had a good laugh. He added wistfully, “Children will find some way to reach their parents,” and elaborated that his daughter in primary 1 would frequently get her teachers to call him on the phone over something trivial. Initially, he was irritated but when he took a day off to observe his daughter at school without her knowing, he saw his daughter bringing a hungry classmate to the office for some biscuits. He concluded that children are constantly trying to solve problems and they reach out to adults for help.
The new job comes with a better salary that will help this father to alleviate some of his financial strain, but his family will continue to be financially stretched for some time more as they look forward to receiving the keys to their newly built flat in about 3 years’ time. Meanwhile, caring for each other and community ties keep them strong. “As my wife and I were growing up, we both did not have much family. It is nice that I have someone to talk to when I come here,” he told us before saying goodbye.
For peace, love, and care,
“Caregivers attract caregivers and live in a community of love. They are energized by their caring, fulfilled, and they love life. Care-takers attract care-takers and live in the company of resentful victims who see themselves as misused and are fatigued from constant giving with no return.” — Gary Zukav