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This Web Page is updated on 2008-07-18 15:29

Christian Service News

Issue 60 (July 2008)

Opinion Feedback

Survey on Children Left Alone at Home

Leaving children home alone has led to frequent occurrence of serious accidents to the children. This raises the questions of whether there is enough social concern about the situation, and enough government and community support for the parents. In order to understand the situation and feelings of these children and their reaction towards their parents being penalized for the act, HKCS Foster Care Service conducted a survey between January and March 2008. Altogether, 168 children aged 5-15 were being interviewed. They were service recipients from our Foster Care Service, Small Group Home Service and Integrated Family Service Centre.

Results from the survey indicate that:

  • 70% of the interviewees have experienced being left alone at home. Younger children are being left alone at home for a shorter period of time. The younger the children, the higher safety awareness the parents have for them.
  • 70% of the parents leave their children alone at home because they need to work or go shopping. Only 4.2% of the parents leave in order to play mahjong or visit the horse racing betting branches.63.2% of the children know the whereabouts of their parents.
  • Most of the younger children are fearful or even angry to be left alone at home. While most of the older children tend to be happier and more excited, however, most children do not like to be left at home alone for long periods of time.
  • 50% of the interviewed believe that they can handle a crisis at home if it happens. This shows the children have confidence in themselves. However, it is possible that they have underestimated the danger or overrated their own ability.
  • Over 50% of the children wish to be taken care of by someone they know.
  • Close to 50% of the children feel helpless and worried to see their parents being punished.

We have the following recommendations for the Government:

1. Increase resources to extend childcare service hours
The survey results reflect that parents need a comprehensive childcare service to fit in with their daily needs. The government should put in more resources so that Childcare Centres and Integrated Children and Youth Service centres can extend their hours of service, and provide immediate, inexpensive, flexible and convenient childcare services to citizens. The government can also spend a greater effort on promoting Child Caring Schemes for communities.
2. Assist schools and communities to build support networks
Children would like to be taken care of by familiar faces when their parents are not at home. However, people relationships are weak under today's mode of living and working. We greatly need the government to put in resources to build community development services such as the Community Networking Task Force, and help parents set up self-help childcare services. The idea is so that one can seek help from one's neighbour at any time and develop a sense of caring for one another. Government can also give schools more resources to provide after school childcare service. On top of this, Integrated Service Centres should encourage their service recipients to work on strengthening their people support networks.
3. Use both reason and compassion when making laws for punishing parents who leave their children alone at home.
Problems cannot be solved by just punishing the parents. It will only cause emotional damage to the children. Therefore, both the government and the public should come up with a set of comprehensive childcare service and policy to help the parents besides as well.
4. Strengthen public education
The government should strengthen the work of public education and promotion, raise parents and children's awareness on the dangers of being left alone at home, and help community members recognize the importance of neighbours watching out for each other.

Miss Lee Yuk Ying, Principal Coordinator of our Foster Care Service comments, "Both children and parents will experience different kinds of anxieties and pressure when children have to be left alone at home. Building up community networks and expanding childcare resources in order to release pressure on the parents and safeguard the children becomes very important."