She knows what it takes after caring for six

Patience and love are among the most important qualities that a foster parent should have, said Madam Norlia Mohd Ali Marican, a mother of two who has cared for six foster children, including two with special needs.

"They are totally different cases," said the 51-year-old housewife, referring to the two children who have global developmental delay.

"We had no experience at all in looking after special-needs children," she added. "But I wanted to challenge myself."

Madam Norlia went through courses by the Ministry of Social and Family Development as part of preparations for taking in a foster child.

Starting January, foster parents have been trained at the Social Service Institute (SSI).

Among the courses they can take are those on caring for children with special needs.

"You need special training to care for them. It's not just theory, but hands-on (experience) as well," said Madam Norlia. "You need a lot of patience."

One of the special-needs children, a girl she took in at 21/2 years old, could not speak. Madam Norlia had to tell her things repeatedly for her to understand.

The other special-needs child, a boy she took in at three years old, would kick, bite and push her. Sometimes, he threw tantrums and would shout at the top of his voice.

"I used my own initiative to hold him, to make him comfortable, to assure him that everything is all right... but it would take a lot of time, a lot of patience," she said.

"I tell myself that if I don't intervene when it comes to these children, I don't know what will happen to them."

She has since enrolled the boy in a special-needs school.

Madam Norlia added: "At the end of the day, all the children need is to be shown a lot of love."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'She knows what it takes after caring for six'. Print Edition | Subscribe