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Innovative ways to help vulnerable families

20 December 2012

Minister S Iswaran giving his opening speech

In an increasingly complex world, multifaceted socio-political issues are reshaping families in Asia. To address the many levels of challenges facing families, fresh perspectives and approaches spanning disciplines and sectors have to be developed.

NUS Department of Social Work, the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and the Social Service Training Institute in Singapore have organised a symposium on "Asian Families: Innovations in Practice and Policies" to discuss such wide-ranging challenges. The bi-annual meeting commissioned by the Consortium of Institutes on Family in the Asian Region held recently at NUS brought together presenters from academia, government and voluntary welfare organisations to examine research-driven, evidence-based innovation in both practices and policies.

More than 270 participants from China, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and the US attended the event.

Guest-of-Honour Mr S Iswaran, Minister, Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, Singapore, opened the symposium. Other VIPs were also present, among them Her Excellency Minda Calaguian Cruz (Philippine Ambassador to Singapore), Mr Chan Heng Kee (Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Community Development, Singapore) and Ms Aubrey Fung Ngar-wai (Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs, Hong Kong).

Well-known speakers delivered the keynote speeches - Dr Lee Wai Yung, Founding Director of the HKU Family Institute, University of Hong Kong and faculty member of the Minuchin Centre for the Family in New York; and Professor Evan Imber-Black, Professor and Program Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Program at Mercy College, New York.

Dr Lee compared how couples negotiate differences in five East Asian regions based on a study conducted. Despite sharing a common background rooted in Confucianism, the subjects from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan showed unique patterns in interpersonal communication and interaction. Prof Imber-Black, meanwhile, looked at therapy for couples in conflict across cultures. She also highlighted three principles underpinning successful healing.

Other subjects covered in workshops and plenary sessions included creative therapeutic intervention with vulnerable families; parent-child conflicts; challenges for innovation and change; assistance for amicable separation; traumatic experiences faced by the Japanese families after the Great East Japan earthquake; and politics of adoption policies.