Fighting A Battle: Getting Your Birth Order Recognised By The State

Your dad and I were shocked when we realised that the State doesn’t consider your birth order to be 2nd when I asked about applying for the government-paid maternity leave (GPML) for your new brother or sister. And in doing so, I felt I had to fight for your rights, even if you aren’t physically around anymore. But that opened up more questions instead.

After checking with the GPML department, I was not satisfied with the officer’s too professional and sterile answers and decided to write to the Minister for MCYS instead and very promptly received a telephone call from one of the senior MCYS officers and email replies.

Email To Minister Chan (MCYS) dated 30 April 2012:
Dear Minister Chan
  I hope in the midst of your busy schedule, you will take some time to read through this email and understand the anguish and heartache that has been brought about after getting the replies from the GML(CPF) officer, Ms Cxxx Yxxx.
 
  We, as parents, would also like to find out what is the rationale behind pegging the confinement order to the current living child/children.
 
   To summarise, I had written to GML(CPF) to find out and confirm if I qualify for the Govt-Paid Maternity Leave that would be granted for 3rd and subsequent child. 
 
   The reason being, my 2nd child, Leia, was born but passed away four months after delivery. She has her birth registered as a Singaporean (both my husband and I are Singapore Citizens) and has her birth cert. Hence to us, she is our second child and we reckon the State recognises her as such since her birth has been registered.   
  
    From what I had read on the GML website, stillborns would not be considered in the confinement order, that I understand as much. But my situation is rare, since we don’t expect children to die this young but such things do happen. Hence I felt perhaps it will be better to check with the GML(CPF) as I am now expecting my 3rd child and planning to apply for maternity leave later in the year.

  I have included the email exchanges between Ms Yxxx and I below for your reference.

  Ms Yxxx has been professional in her replies and provided me with the link to the huge Child Development Co-Savings Act and highlighted that the confinement order is based on the number of current living child/children. Hence my current pregnancy, if successful, will be considered as my 2nd child.

   My husband and I feel very perplexed, hurt and disappointed by this. We feel that parents who had children who died unexpectedly at a young age, would feel that our child has been conveniently ignored. That her birth, recognised by the State at birth and registered, has been cancelled out. That the order of her birth is reduced to nothing just because she didn’t live on. We feel very unfair for Leia, that even though it is a fact she had died, but it is also a reality that she was born alive and lived, even if it was for a short four months.

   To me, to simply quote the CDCA document and tell me that is the reason why my current pregnancy will be considered the 2nd confinement, and not the 3rd, is a slap in the face and a pain in my heart. It may be a very technical reason behind it, but I feel it is very unfair to the parents and to those young children whose lives were snuffed out unexpectedly. And I sure don’t understand why.

   As it is, to lose a child that young is already a tragedy, something we live with each day, and to consider having another after the death of our daughter, is something my husband and I mulled over for a year and a half but still we decided to try for a 3rd. Not because of any baby bonus, GML or whatever extras the government will give us, but because we still feel we want to be parents. The joy of having another child outweighs the fear of losing another.

   So, Minister Chan, my hope is that my daughter, Leia, will be considered as my 2nd child, not just within my family, but recognised by the State, especially since her birth had already been recognised by the State.

   Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you soon.

Email Reply From The Senior MCYS Officer dated 9 May 2012 (days after we had spoken over the phone on the 3 May) and this email was mysteriously retracted thrice, which didn’t work cos I had opened the email.

Dear Ms Christina Lim,

  We refer to your email to Minister (Community Development, Youth and Sports) on 30 Apr 2012 and our tele-conversation on 03 May 2012, requesting us to re-determine the birth order of your third child for the purpose of Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML).

 2.   We are sorry to know of the loss of your 2nd child, Leia Tan. Under the Baby Bonus Scheme, Leia’s birth order remains as 2 and your newborn will be considered as birth order 3 under the Child Development Co-savings Act (CDCA).

3.    However, for the purpose of GPML claim by your employer, your newborn will be considered as the 2nd child. This is because the provisions on GPML in the CDCA are related to the maternity leave provisions in the Employment Act. In particular, the maternity leave entitlement in the Employment Act is only for the first and second child.  As such, the birth order definition of ‘living children’ will protect working women who give birth to 3 or more children but had lost a child earlier whether as a still-born or through illness.

4.    We would like to assure you that the determination of birth order has in no way undermined your entitlement to Baby Bonus or GPML benefits (as an employee) under the CDCA.

5.     We wish you and your family well.

And this email from MCYS caused me to question point 3 (we don’t understand the legal, civil service mumbo jumbo language). And it felt like they were making a compromise, by recognising your birth order for the Babybonus application but not for GPML.

So I shot back another email to them, after giving them the morning to explain why they had retracted this email or even send me another “updated” one.

Email Reply To The Senior MCYS Officer dated 10 May 2012

Dear Mrs Pxxx-Pxxx 

  Thanks for the reply.

  I read through your email a few times and had also forwarded it to my husband. However as the information described is in the standard formal language, we would like to just clarify a few points so that we have fully understood MCYS’ stand.

   1. Babybonus
Am I right to interpret that when I put in the Babybonus application for my 3rd child, if delivered successfully, it will be ok to state that I have two preceding children, inclusive Leia.

   2. GPML
My husband and I do not understand the statement “maternity leave entitlement in the Employment Act is only for the first and second child.  As such, the birth order definition of ‘living children’ will protect working women who give birth to 3 or more children but had lost a child earlier whether as a still-born or through illness”

We are unable to see how the birth order definition of “living children” protects working women with 3 or more children but lost a child. Since we do not know about the details of the Employment Act, we are unable to understand the rationale behind it.

Over our conversation on the 3 May, you did mention that if I was interested, you could get the Legal Dept to write to me to explain why the CDCA has defined confinement order according to living children, and I had replied that although this would be useful in helping me understand, I would still find this to be an unfair definition in my case. Perhaps if you could provide me with a bit more explanation, that may help.

While there must be some good reason for protecting that group of mothers/working women, but since we don’t see the rationale at this point, I feel that the birth order definition of “living children” doesn’t “protect” or assure mothers/working women who had one less child. We are obviously in the minority, but yet this minority exists.

You had also pointed out the scenario that if I had applied for maternity for my first child, Tyler, and subsequently my 2nd, Leia, then when I do apply for maternity leave for my newborn, the child would be considered my 3rd child. This would have been straightforward, except I wouldn’t have expected how things would turn out and also because my family was staying and working in HK, and there wasn’t any need for me to apply for maternity in S’pore. But if this was all done, I guess this current issue would not have turned out to be so sticky and in a sad way, resulted in lots of questions being asked and us feeling emotionally drained at times.

  I would like to reiterate that it isn’t the babybonus. GPML or any other benefits that we are concerned with, but it is our hope to have our daughter, Leia’s birth order, recognised officially in all aspects.

  My husband and I would also like to thank Minister Chan, MCYS and of course, you, for the patience and time taken to look into our situation.

  Thank you and best regards

So the officer tried to contact me the last two days, but she caught me at the wrong time… when I was teaching. And finally did the smart thing by sending another email

Email Reply From The Senior MCYS Officer dated 14 May 2012

Dear Ms Lim,

I have tried contacting you on the mobile phone on 11 and 14 May 2012 but there was no answer.

 2.  As mentioned in our earlier reply, your newborn child is considered 3rd child for Babybonus application.

 3.  However, for the purpose of Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML), your newborn child’s birth order is considered as 2. We would like to highlight we recognised Leia’s birth.

 4.   As for your request for an explanation of the confinement order in CDCA, Paragraph 3 in our earlier reply is drafted with inputs from our policy colleagues and colleagues from the National Population Talent Dept, Prime Minister’s Office.

 5.   I would also like to clarify that in the scenario if you had applied for GPML for Tyler and Leia, your new born’s birth order would still be considered as 2, for the purpose of GPML. In our tele-conversation, I pointed out the scenario to highlight that it might have felt better if you have applied for GPML and have received GPML for Leia then. Apologies if I have confused you in any way.

6.   Thank you for taking time to understand our reply.

I still don’t understand the rationale for pegging birth order to the number of living children and while I know it is not possible to get what I want in life, but when it’s for you and your rights, I would want to fight. Just as you had fought.