More stepping up to be foster parents

Ms Hazel Shen has been a foster parent since 2013. She currently takes care of two children - one three years old and the other, 15 months old. Madam Norlia Ali Marican, 50, has been a foster parent since 2003. She has taken care of five children in
Ms Hazel Shen has been a foster parent since 2013. She currently takes care of two children - one three years old and the other, 15 months old. Madam Norlia Ali Marican, 50, has been a foster parent since 2003. She has taken care of five children in that time and currently has two children, aged three and seven, under her care.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Number has grown almost 40% since 2013 to 337, closer to government target of 500

The number of Singaporeans stepping forward to act as foster parents for vulnerable children has risen by almost 40 per cent to 337 since the end of 2013.

It brings the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) closer to its target of having at least 500 foster parents in Singapore.

The figure was announced by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin at the Foster Family Tea Reception, held yesterday at Resorts World Convention Centre.

The annual event honouring the efforts of foster parents in Singapore was attended by more than 900 people from foster families.

JUST DO IT

You have nothing to lose, but the child has everything to gain.

MS HAZEL SHEN, a foster mother

There are currently 350 children below the age of 18 under foster care in Singapore.

Also announced were the results of a survey conducted by the MSF among 246 foster parents earlier this year, which showed that almost half of the respondents found out about the fostering scheme via the newspapers, television or other forms of media.

One third of foster parents said they had little information on their foster children before placement.

One of the reasons for this is that children are sometimes removed from their homes for their own safety and subsequently placed with foster families on short notice.

"We recognise that for children, moving into a stranger's house, even if the family is caring, can still be a traumatic experience," said Mr Tan. He added that this led to challenges for foster parents, especially at the start of placement.

The MSF is introducing training for parents to help them deal with children with high levels of trauma.

The ministry also hopes that more will step forward to take in foster children above the age of seven, as well as those with special needs.

Ms Hazel Shen, 33, acts as a foster mother to a three-year-old girl with global developmental delay, which affects areas such as speech and fine motor skills.

The pharmaceutical sales officer, who also takes care of a 15-month-old boy, said that her foster daughter is otherwise healthy and normal, and she encouraged those considering becoming foster parents to step forward.

"If the family has the capacity to care for a child, just do it," she said. "You have nothing to lose, but the child has everything to gain."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'More stepping up to be foster parents'. Print Edition | Subscribe