Third fostering agency to be set up by June next year to grow number of foster families

Housewife Maimunah Dolah and her husband, Mr Azman Asmat, both 53, have cared for three foster children since 2008. Currently, the couple is caring for a 6-year-old foster child, who was lived with the family since he was 11 months old.
Housewife Maimunah Dolah and her husband, Mr Azman Asmat, both 53, have cared for three foster children since 2008. Currently, the couple is caring for a 6-year-old foster child, who was lived with the family since he was 11 months old. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - A third dedicated fostering agency will be set up by the first half of next year, as part of an ongoing scheme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to place more children in foster families rather than in children's homes.

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 third agency was announced by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Friday (Nov 18) at the Fostering 60 Celebration Party at Universal Studios Singapore, which marked the 60th anniversary of the Fostering Service.

"Children grow best within a family environment as it provides a more natural and nurturing environment for the child's development," he told more than 1,000 foster families and children present, in a speech.

"Such settings allow these children to receive love and care - a powerful healing ingredient for children who have been hurt."

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

The third dedicated fostering agency, which will be run by a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO), will be capable of providing fostering services for between 75 and 100 vulnerable children.

These services include recruiting and screening foster parents, and providing better support to them, such as through home visits and regular support group meetings.

MSF will be calling for bids by interested VWOs, said Ms Audrie Siew, director of Children in Care Service in MSF's Rehabilitation and Protection Group.

As of September this year, a third of about 1,100 vulnerable children, or some 440 of them, are placed in family-based care, such as foster care. The rest are placed in children's homes.

With the setting up of the new fostering agency, MSF hopes to grow the proportion of children in family-based care to two-thirds of the total number of vulnerable children at any time.

The two existing fostering agencies MCYC Community Services Society and Boys' Town, which were set up last year, currently support about 150 children and their foster parents.