Third fostering agency to be ready by next June

Retiree Azman Asmat and his wife Maimunah Dolah have cared for three foster children since 2008. Next to them is adjunct polytechnic lecturer Stacey Low, who took in a pair of two-year-old twins in July.
Retiree Azman Asmat and his wife Maimunah Dolah have cared for three foster children since 2008. Next to them is adjunct polytechnic lecturer Stacey Low, who took in a pair of two-year-old twins in July.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It will provide fostering services for up to 100 vulnerable children

Housewife Maimunah Dolah, 53, babysat her neighbour's child for two years to pass the time, but her love for children inspired her to do more.

In 2008, she took in her first pair of foster siblings, then aged three and four.

For about three weeks, they cried and asked to return to their biological parents, said her husband, Mr Azman Asmat, a 53-year-old retiree.

But with patience and guidance, the children soon settled into the family, learnt to read and write, and had the chance to go on their first trip overseas. They lived with their foster parents for eight years.

Encouraged, the couple took in their third foster child about five years ago, when he was only 11 months old. He still lives with the couple, whose three biological children are aged 19 to 21 years old.

More families like the Azmans may come on board when a third fostering agency is set up by June next year, seeking to enable more vulnerable children to grow up in a family-based environment rather than in children's homes.

This was announced by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday at a party held at Universal Studios Singapore to mark the 60th anniversary of the Fostering Service.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam was guest of honour.

"Children grow best within a family environment as it provides a more natural and nurturing environment for the child's development," he told over 1,000 foster families and children at the event. "Such settings allow these children to receive love and care - a powerful healing ingredient for children who have been hurt."

He also urged more parents to open their hearts to children above seven years old and those with special needs, who have a harder time getting into foster care.

Children placed in foster care include those who have been abandoned, neglected, ill-treated, or whose parents cannot care for them due to reasons such as illness or imprisonment.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be calling for bids from voluntary welfare organisations to run the agency which can provide fostering services for up to 100 vulnerable children, said Ms Audrie Siew, director of Children in Care Service in MSF's Rehabilitation and Protection Group.

Services will include recruiting and screening foster parents, and providing support, through home visits and support-group meetings.

As of September, 439 out of about 1,100 vulnerable children were placed in foster care. Another 100 are cared for by relatives and 662 are in children's homes.

MCYC Community Services Society and Boys' Town are the existing two fostering agencies that were set up last year, under an $8 million, three-year pilot scheme announced in 2014. There are about 150 children under these agencies, while the rest are under MSF.

Said a foster parent, adjunct polytechnic lecturer Stacey Low, 47: "I worked at an orphange in Vietnam for about six months, where most of the children were neglected or abandoned. They have always been in my heart. Since I am blessed with a supportive family, I thought that if I could take in a child who was neglected, I (would) want to do that.


Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that 339 out of about 1,100 vulnerable children were placed in foster care. This is incorrect. It should be 439 children. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Third fostering agency to be ready by next June'. Print Edition | Subscribe