Foster family allows teen to find his identity

James was just seven months old when his foster parents, Mr Gerard Nonis and Madam Susanna Daniels, took him into their care.
James was just seven months old when his foster parents, Mr Gerard Nonis and Madam Susanna Daniels, took him into their care.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

When 17-year-old James (not his real name) was at a crossroads after his N-level examinations, the first people he turned to were his foster parents, who sat down with him and guided him through his options.

Now studying electronics engineering at a tertiary institution, with his sights set on entering the Navy, James is thankful that he was "not left alone as a child".

At just seven months old, he was taken into the care of police officer Gerard Nonis, 54, and his 51-year-old wife, Madam Susanna Daniels, under the Ministry of Social and Family Development's fostering scheme.

Currently, the couple have four children of their own, between the ages 14 and 26, and three foster children. Another three foster children were adopted by other families or have returned to their parents.

Most of the time, fostering is only a temporary arrangement to meet the emergency care needs of a child. The ultimate goal is to reintegrate the children with their natural families.

James, who still lives with the couple, said: "My dad gives me advice whenever I face difficult decisions and my mum is my listening ear.

 

"Because of them, growing up, I was able to find my identity."

LOVE AND PROPER GUIDANCE

Every time we see a foster child taken into a home, we are assured that he has a family, and the proper guidance and love to grow up well.

POLICE OFFICER GERARD NONIS

He added that without their support, he could have easily "done the wrong things or joined the wrong company".

For Mr Nonis, seeing James grow into an "independent and trustworthy" person has also been a source of pride for them.

Being part of a "huge and fun" family of nine people also means that he never has to feel lonely, said James, who enjoys going shopping or catching the latest action movies with his family on weekends.

While their foster children had mostly joined the family as babies, the couple said they have always been open to the idea of fostering older children. And they hope to continue fostering "as long as we can".

"Every time we see a foster child taken into a home, we are assured that he has a family, and the proper guidance and love to grow up well," said Mr Nonis.

"Every child deserves a home, regardless of their age."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'Foster family allows teen to find his identity'. Print Edition | Subscribe