Govt to pump $8m into fostering agencies to boost quality of services

SINGAPORE - Fostering agencies that will provide better care services for vulnerable children will be set up in a three-year pilot and it is estimated to cost the Government $8 million, said Minister of Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing at a rehabilitation conference on Wednesday.

The agencies will have three main roles.

1. It will support foster parents to provide better care for vulnerable children by providing counselling, training and other services to foster parents

2. It will organise outreach initiatives to raise awareness of the need for foster parents and actively recruit new ones.

3. It will assess potential foster parents on their ability to meet the needs of children and match them with suitable ones.

These roles are presently undertaken by staff from the Ministry of Social and Family Development but from next year, the ministry will be appointing Voluntary Welfare Organisations to set up these agencies.

The idea is to have dedicated agencies that will have greater resources to recruit parents so that more children will benefit from foster care.

There are about 325 children on the fostering scheme today, taken care of by 235 foster parents. These children need foster care as they have been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated, or because their parents cannot care for them due to reasons like physical or mental illness, or imprisonment.

The Government is pumping in more resources in the fostering scene because it wants these children to be cared for in the community.

Mr Chan had said previously that evidence from overseas institutions and Singapore's own experience showed that children who grew up in a home environment fare better in life. There are now about 800 children and young people in 23 homes run by voluntary welfare groups. Some of these children could be cared for in foster homes instead of in institutions if there are more foster parents willing to take them in.

"We know that we have a capacity constraint. The more we are able to have the low risk, low needs cases to live in a homely environment, the more we are able to concentrate our resources in the institutional environment for the high needs and high risk cases," said Mr Chan in a speech at the conference.

Over the years, the fostering scheme have evolved to care for older children. In the past, the scheme mainly catered to providing care for babies and young children under six years of age. Now, the ministry needs more foster parents so that older children can be cared for in a familial environment.

jantai@sph.com.sg