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Nine-Month-Old Baby in Critical Condition Exposes Gaps in Hong Kong’s Child Care System

Nine-Month-Old Baby in Critical Condition_1

A nine-month-old baby girl, allegedly subjected to abuse by a 33-year-old nanny employed under the administration’s child care project, remains in critical condition as of yesterday at Tuen Mun Hospital. The nanny, identified as Chung, was apprehended on Saturday and is currently in police custody.

According to the Social Welfare Department, Chung had undergone training provided by the charity organization Yan Oi Tong as part of the administration’s Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project. This was her first childcare assignment under the scheme, which pays an hourly rate of HK$20.

The baby girl, who has a four-year-old sister, resides with her 35-year-old parents, both employed as a swimming coach and a teacher, respectively. The family of four shares a flat in Affluence Garden in Tuen Mun, where they also employ a domestic helper.

In the absence of their domestic helper, the parents engaged Chung’s services through Yan Oi Tong earlier this month. The father would drop off the child at Chung’s residence in Tuen Mun in the morning and retrieve her in the evening.

However, on Thursday afternoon, Chung contacted the parents, claiming to have found the toddler experiencing seizures after bathing her. Alarmed, the parents rushed to the scene and discovered their child unconscious. They immediately transported her to the hospital, where doctors detected blood clots in her brain and performed emergency surgery.

Suspecting abuse, the parents promptly involved law enforcement authorities. Following a preliminary investigation, the police arrested Chung in the early hours of Saturday on charges of “ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of the child or young person.”

The baby’s aunts expressed anguish over the incident and praised the absent domestic helper for her exemplary care of the child. One aunt criticized Chung for contacting the parents instead of immediately alerting the police upon discovering the child’s distress.

Regarding the incident, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han disclosed that the Social Welfare Department has requested Yan Oi Tong to furnish a detailed report. Sun acknowledged Yan Oi Tong’s provision of training and guidance in accordance with regulatory requirements. However, he refrained from making further comments, citing the ongoing police investigation and the need to avoid premature assumptions. Sun added that the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project has been operational for several years, and the department has established training regulations.

Nonetheless, Tik Chi-yuen, who represents the social welfare sector in the Legislative Council, emphasized the necessity of enhancing the monitoring mechanism and professionalizing community nannies. Tik noted that the current training provided to nannies is insufficient, lasting only two to three hours and serving as a brief introduction rather than comprehensive training. He emphasized the complexity of children’s behavior and emotions in contemporary times and the forthcoming introduction of child protection legislation, underscoring the need for an extensive training course.

The child care project, initiated in Hong Kong in October 2011, involves collaboration between the Social Welfare Department and various charities to offer home-based child care services or center-based care groups to children. Yan Oi Tong has been operating the program in Tuen Mun.