SINGAPORE - To encourage more people to be foster parents and better support existing ones, the first two dedicated fostering agencies will be set up by June this year.
They will be run by two voluntary welfare organisations, MCYC Community Services Society and Boys' Town, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing on the sidelines of a visit to Boys' Town on Thursday morning.
This move is part of a $8 million, three-year pilot scheme announced last year to place more children placed in foster families instead of institutional settings such as children's homes, as the home is believed to be a more natural environment for children to grow up.
The roles of these agencies include recruiting and screening parents, and providing better support to these parents. For example, foster parents may be counselled and better trained so that they are equipped to help the new child integrate into their families.
There are 330 children in the fostering scheme today, taken care by 235 foster parents, usually middle-aged married couples. The ministry hopes to double fostering capacity to care for 600 vulnerable children within the next five years.
Another 800 children and young people live in 23 children's homes run by welfare organisations.
Mr Chan said fostering can be challenging because parents who care for the child need to be prepared to do so for an indeterminate length of time.
"Fostering is perhaps even more challenging than adopting a child because when you adopt a child, he is probably going to be with you for a long time but it may not be so deterministic for fostering, which can be quite short or long depending on when the child is able to reintegrate to his own family," he said.
One way to help parents who are apprehensive about making that leap, he said, is to ease them gradually into that role by arranging for initial short periods of stay before they foster the children formally.