Ministry of Social and Family Development
Feature | MSF

Going the Extra Mile to Make a Difference

The Ministry of Social and Family Development aims to nurture resilient individuals, foster strong families and build a caring society. Meet Zhang Keyan, a passionate and committed officer with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, who aspires to continually make a positive impact through his work.

Zhang Keyan works as an Assistant Manager under the Child Protective Service at MSF. He is an MSF-SGS scholar and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Work) from NUS.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) aims to build Singapore’s “heartware” through its policies, community infrastructure, programmes and services. Among the many services that it provides, it is also the lead agency for protection of abused and neglected children. MSF prioritises the need for children to be given a safe and nurturing environment for optimum growth and development.

As Assistant Manager of the Child Protective Service at MSF, Keyan leads a team of child protection officers who manage investigation and safety planning for children. His team works with families of vulnerable children, the community, and professionals to build safer and stronger families.

Under the MSF-Singapore Government Scholarship (MSF-SGS), Keyan pursued a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Work) from NUS, which prepared him well for his current role.

Keyan’s interest in social work came about through his volunteer work which he performed as a student. He tells us more about his passion for helping others and what inspires him.

Social work is indeed a noble profession. Can you share your inspiration for joining this field?

Growing up, I was intrigued by how people’s lives and perspectives were shaped by their families and environment. Having spent much of my student life volunteering in the community, I met people from all walks of life and saw those struggling in their lives. I wondered what I, as an individual, and we, as a society, could do to support them. This made me realise that I wanted a meaningful pursuit where I could impact my community.

“A career in MSF would provide me with the opportunity to bridge new possibilities and better outcomes in the lives of the vulnerable.” Zhang Keyan

In pursuit of this education, you chose to undertake the MSF-SGS. Tell us more about what made you choose this scholarship.

While researching various scholarship opportunities, I came across the MSF-SGS and was drawn to it as it aligned with my beliefs and values that people are at the heart of everything we do, and a career in MSF would provide me with the opportunity to bridge new possibilities and improve the lives of the vulnerable.

This scholarship has enabled me many opportunities, including living in a residential college and embarking on a student exchange programme overseas in addition to networking and developmental opportunities. There is a buddy system where new scholars are matched with in-service scholars, allowing the former to learn from their senior’s experiences, clarify doubts and understand MSF’s work better.

The biggest benefit of a scholarship is knowing that a meaningful job awaits me after my graduation.

Zhang Keyan

Zhang Keyan

Speaking of this meaningful job, could you detail your role at MSF?

I work with a team of child protection officers to protect and ensure the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children. This involves working with families to resolve safety and risk concerns to ensure a safe and healthy home environment. I also work with community partners to facilitate long-term care arrangements for children who cannot be safely reunified to their families.

The work is not a walk in the park, there are many challenging days. We play multiple roles such as: case manager, broker, advocate and counsellor. We are also required to make vital and lifelong decisions daily. We need to show compassion, be fair and just, and stand firm even when we face challenging situations.

To work here, one needs good awareness of self and the environment and must have the flexibility to play different roles. This would be undergirded by strong engagement skills, empathy, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Your work has been a fulfilling experience, but also a challenging one. How does MSF support staff like yourself?

The work can be tough, but MSF has a very supportive environment. You can reach out to supervisors and colleagues when you need help or a listening ear. My supervisors provide me a safe space to reflect on the emotions and thoughts I have in my work, in addition to the support and professional guidance needed. They also helped me to grow professionally by giving me managerial responsibilities and make me lead inter-department projects.

Overall, what would you say are the key benefits of working with MSF?

MSF provides a wide range of career possibilities such as policy and planning, service delivery and social and community services. There are also opportunities to undergo job rotations, so you can accumulate new experiences and impact change in different ways.

The MSF helps the needy and vulnerable amongst us in Singapore. If the idea of working with the vulnerable and lending them a helping hand resonates with you, then I think MSF would be a good place to be in.