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Pro Bono: Children and Youth Issues

Children and Youth Issues: Introduction


The legal regulation of the child may concern the following areas:

  • Parent and Child: There are two broad areas - (1) the law regulating aspects of the parent-child relationship; (2) law regulating the status of persons under the age of majority.
  • Guardianship and Custody: The law of guardianship and custody regulates the living arrangements that the adults who are involved in the upbringing of a child make and how the adults conduct themselves in the upbringing of the child.
  • Adoption: Adoption is a legal process that irrevocably severs the relationship between the biological parents and their child, and simultaneously replaces it with a relationship between a new set of parents and the child.

Apart from the Women's Charter 1961 (2020 Rev Ed), there are a number of specific statutes regulating aspects of the relationship between the parents and their child. These are of general application to all persons in Singapore, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. They include:

  • Adoption of Children Act 1939 (2020 Rev Ed): Its enactment facilitates legally-recognized adoption through creation of a parent-child relationship via an adoption order granted by the Court.
  • Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (2020 Rev Ed) (CYPA): Offers a child and young person broad protection from acts of "ill-treatment" and regulates juvenile justice.
  • Family Justice Act 2014 (2020 Rev Ed): Regulates the jurisdiction of the Youth Court that is empowered by the CYPA and which falls under the umbrella of the Family Justice Courts.
  • Guardianship of Infants Act 1934 (2020 Rev Ed): Regulates the law of guardianship and custody, and is supplemented by the Women's Charter and principles from common law and equity.
  • Legitimacy Act 1934 (2020 Rev Ed): Provides conditions under which a child, whose relationship with her parents was not legitimate at birth, subsequently acquires legitimacy by her parents marrying each other.
  • Maintenance of Parents Act 1995 (2020 Rev Ed): Provides for the duty for a grown able child to maintain their aged parents. Duty to maintain a child is conversely provided for by the Women's Charter.
  • International Child Abduction Act 2010 (2020 Rev Ed): Statutory mechanism based on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980, in response to the unreasonable exertion of parental authority of abducting one's child away from the child's habitual residence
  • Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act 2013 (2020 Rev Ed): Legislation on the status of a child born with assisted reproduction technology, specifically providing for who is 'mother' and 'father' of the child.
  • Women's Charter 1961: There are several provisions dealing with child law, particularly Part 10 Chapter 5 on 'Welfare of Children'.

According to the learned author, the driving principle underpinning the law of parent and child is "parental responsibility" under s 46(1) of the Women's Charter, which has origins from common law as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1577 UNTS 3 (1989) (UNCRC).

Concern for the 'welfare of the child' is ubiquitous in the law relating to children, as expressed through legal principles espoused by the Adoption of Children Act, CYPA, Women's Charter, Guardianship of Infants Act and the ratification of the UNCRC.

(Source: Leong Wai Kum, Elements of Family Law, 3rd Ed (2018))

Resources for Children and Youth Issues

A. General

Family Justice Courts
The Family Justice Courts of Singapore provides a summary of matters relating to Children and Young Persons. See in particular:

MSF - Children and Youth
Information provided by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on a range of children and youth issues:

B. Adoption, Custody and Guardianship

Family Justice Courts
The Family Courts have jurisdiction over the following matters:

MSF - Adoption
MSF provides basic information on adoption, its process and legal implications. See also:

C. Child Protection

Family Justice Courts

MSF Resources

1. Family Justice Courts (FJC)
The Family Justice Courts (FJC) are established pursuant to the Family Justice Act in 2014 and restructured the family justice system by bringing together all family-related work under a specialised body of courts. The Youth Court in particular falls under the umbrella of Family Justice Courts.
See FJC's page: 'Seek help for a family case'


Add: Adoption and Mental Capacity Registries, Level 4 West Wing, Family Justice Courts @ MND, 5 Maxwell Road, #04-00, Tower Block, MND Complex Singapore 069110
Tel: (65) 6325 7619
Contact: Write to us - Probate and adoption and deputyship
Youth Courts
Add: Youth Courts, Level 1, Family Justice Courts @ Havelock, No. 3 Havelock Square. Singapore 059725
Contact: Write to us - Youth arrests and family guidance and care and protection orders

2. Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)
As the central government authority in-charge of children and youth matters, MSF aims to provide them with safe and conducive environments for optimum growth and development, and plays a role in intervention to ensure the well-being of children. MSF operates on a framework that varies the level of intrusiveness of its interventions, depending on the seriousness of each case.
Add: Refer to List of MSF Family Service Centres in Singapore

Adoption Portal
Contact: Public Inquiry / Email:
Tel: (65) 6355 6388

Child Protective Service
The Child Protective Service (CPS) within MSF undertakes the statutory role in investigating and intervening in situations where children cannot remain safe with their parents or caregivers. CPS only steps in for situations that present serious child protection concerns.
Add: 512A Thomson Rd, #01-01 to #01-09, SLF Podium, MSF Building, Singapore 298137
Tel: 6355 6388 (Child Welfare) / 1800-777-0000 (National Anti-Violence Helpline, call 999 immediately if child's life is in danger or after office hours)

3. Child Protection Specialist Centres (CPSCs)
MSF also partners with various approved Child Protection Specialist Centres (CPSCs), which are specialised community-based agencies that work with families with child protection concerns. MSF has trained professionals from CPSCs to provide intensive and specialised assessment and community-based intervention, through casework and home-based services.

a. Safe Space PAVE Child Protection Specialist Centre
Safe Space handles moderate risk child abuse cases, referred by the Child Protective Services (CPS) from the MSF and the community. PAVE CPSC works closely with the family, hospitals, police, schools and the community to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.
Add: Blk 305 #01-175 Yishun Central Singapore 760305
Tel: (65) 6555 0390

b. Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre
Big Love’s main objective is to help families with Child Protection concerns, and provides services such as casework management, social work programmes and public education and outreach events.
Add: Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre, 7A Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, Agape Village, #02-05/06, Singapore 319264
Tel: (65) 6445 0400

c. HEART@Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre
HEART@Fei Yue is a community social work agency that provides quality home-based services and support to families and children who face abuse or severe neglect at home. It receives MSF Child Protective Services to support families and children identified to require non-statutory services and support.
Add: HEART @ Fei Yue, 20 Lengkok Bahru, Playground Block, #03-02, Singapore 159053
Tel: (65) 6819 9170

4. Singapore Central Authority
Facilitates applications for the return of children who have been taken to or from Singapore without permission of the parent who has custody rights and works with other Central Authorities on such applications.
Add: The Singapore Central Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development, 512 Thomson Road #08-00, MSF Building, Singapore 298136

5. Free Legal Advice or Legal Assistance on Child and Family Matters

a. Legal Aid Bureau
The Legal Aid Bureau advances access to justice for applicants with limited means, including providing legal representation and advice, as set out in the Legal Aid and Advice Act.
Add: Ministry of Law Services Centre, 45 Maxwell Road, #07-11 The URA Centre (East Wing), Singapore 069118
Contact: Contact Us@OneMinLaw
Tel: 1800 2255 529 (1800-CALL-LAW)

b. Community Justice Centre
The Community Justice Centre (CJC) is a community partnership between the public sector, the philanthropic sector, and the legal profession rendering assistance to Litigants-in-Person (LiPs) in need. It administers the On-site Legal Advice Scheme which provides immediate basic legal advice and directions to LiPs. Limited 20 minute slots are available daily on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. No appointment is required and is subjected to the availability of slots. 
Add: CJC Help Centre, Basement 1 of the State Courts Towers, 1 Havelock Square, Singapore 059724
Tel: (65) 6557 4100

c. Community Legal Clinic
The Law Society's Community Legal Clinics allow one to see a lawyer on a one-to-one basis for 20 minutes and have free legal advice. Registration is required before an appointment is made, via phone, email or walk-in appointment at the CJC (see above).
Add: One of the 4 assigned Community Legal Clinics upon registration
Tel: (65) 6536 0650

Key Legislation

Refer to the following statutes and related subsidiary legislation on Singapore Statutes Online:

Practice Directions and Circulars

Refer to the News and Resources page for a list of Practice Directions, Circulars (Filter 'Family Justice Courts' on left pane) and amendments.

Elements of Family Law in Singapore

Leong, Wai Kum. Singapore : LexisNexis, 2018.

International Issues in Family Law in Singapore 

Ong, Debbie Siew Ling, author. Singapore : Academy Publishing, 2015.

Image result for know the law now

Know the Law Now 

Created by the Law Society Pro-Bono Services

Chapter 20 contains information on adoption law.


Community Legal Clinic Manual : Juvenile Issues

Published by the Law Society of Singapore, this book contains detailed guidance to volunteer lawyers.

The Juvenile Issues section provides information on Beyond Parental Control, Youth Arrest etc.

If a password is required for access, NUS Law students may request it from the Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education ( 

The Family Justice Courts: Forms page contains forms for the following classes of matters: