Better equipped to care for foster children

Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education Faishal Ibrahim (right) reading letters written by foster parents to their foster children at the inaugural Foster Care Roadshow at Jurong Point on Sept 10.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education Faishal Ibrahim (right) reading letters written by foster parents to their foster children at the inaugural Foster Care Roadshow at Jurong Point on Sept 10. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
People pose for photos at the inaugural Foster Care Roadshow at Jurong Point on Sept 10.
People pose for photos at the inaugural Foster Care Roadshow at Jurong Point on Sept 10. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Improved training for foster parents at Social Service Institute to help them do their best

For 420 children here whose parents and relatives are unable to care for them, there is an almost equal number of foster parents who have thrown them a lifeline. And these good Samaritans are now getting improved training to help them do the best job possible.

Since January, more than one in three foster parents has done some form of training at the Social Service Institute (SSI), the main centre that trains people who work in charities and welfare organisations here.

What they can learn runs the gamut from managing challenging behaviour and caring for children with special needs, to upcoming courses on working with birth parents.

"The whole package brings a better kind of environment, or knowledge delivery process to the foster parents here," said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education Faishal Ibrahim yesterday, referring to a collaboration between SSI and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to revamp training.

Instead of going through courses run by the MSF, foster parents, since January, have been doing so at SSI, and in smaller and more interactive classes. There are currently six programmes, including three specialised ones, and 10 new electives will be introduced by next year, covering topics such as parenting teenagers and working with birth parents. Besides taking a compulsory induction course that covers basic topics such as the impact of trauma, parents go through core training as well, including topics such as caring for children with special needs.

Dr Faishal was speaking at the first Foster Care Roadshow at Jurong Point - part of four roving exhibitions and talks in heartland malls to raise awareness of foster care and get more families to sign up.

There are 420 children on the MSF fostering scheme, cared for by about 400 parents. In recent years, more people have opted to become foster parents. There were 254 on the MSF scheme in 2014 - and the goal is to have 500 in the next five years.

Among those who plan to undergo the specialised training is housewife Choo Kheng Huay, 60, who signed up as a foster parent in 2002 and has cared for 14 children on top of her own two sons and two daughters.

"Sometimes, we encounter difficulties and don't know how to handle the situation. During training courses, we can ask," she said.

•To find out more about the MSF Fostering Service call 6354-8799 or visit www.msf.gov.sg/fostering

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Better equipped to care for foster children'. Print Edition | Subscribe