Exemplary foster parents get award for ongoing care of 3 special needs children

Madam Hawa Bee Mohammed Hussain (right), her husband Abdul Rahim Moidin and their daughter Wahedah Rahim. Their family was presented the "Kampung Spirit" award by PPIS Oasis for fostering three children with special needs. ST PHOTO: MELODY ZACCHEUS

SINGAPORE - She quit her job to raise three children - but they are not her own.

In 2001 at 43 years old, Madam Hawa Bee Mohammed Hussain who had signed on to become a foster parent, took on the role of mother to two special needs boys aged nine months and 10 days.

Her husband, a retired security officer Abdul Rahim Moidin, was 51 when the boys arrived. When they were older, he would take them to school and to the playground.

The couple's own daughter, Wahedah Rahim, then 18, even signed up for classes on how to manage the older boy's fits.

Two years later, after getting the hang of caring for the boys, they opened their home to another child - a baby girl just 16 days old who also has special needs.

For their dedication to the three foster children, Madam Hawa Bee's family was presented the "Kampung Spirit" award by Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (PPIS) Oasis on Sunday (Jan 20).

As one of four government-appointed national fostering agencies, PPIS Oasis provides support to Madam Hawa Bee's family, and a social worker visits them once every two months.

The awards ceremony took place at PPIS Oasis' official launch event in Queenstown.

Addressing the 40 families at the event, Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the senior parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Education, said it was heartening to see people coming forward as foster parents.

He said: "Every child is important to Singapore. Singapore has no natural resources - only you and I, and our children. If we are able to give every child a good start, it means a lot for the country and it means a great deal to the child."

PPIS Oasis also distributed awards to 20 foster children for good conduct, excellence in the performing arts and for doing well in their studies.

New foster parents were also given awards for their efforts.

PPIS Oasis said it will be ramping up programmes for their beneficiaries in the form of a regular support group for foster parents as well as more excursions and workshops to facilitate bonding.

Now 61, Madam Hawa Bee, a former factory worker whom her foster children address endearingly as "mummy", said she opened her heart and home to them as her way of giving back to society.

On her part, Ms Wahedah, a customer service executive, spends time imparting values to the children who are now in their teens.

"I tell them it is okay that they were not born clever and that everyone's journey is different. I remind them consistently that they just have to do best and learn how to be independent. They have made me proud with every minor achievement and have passed their major exams."

She added that when her parents fell ill one after the other in 2016 - her father suffered a stroke and her mother had a heart attack - the three children approached their religious teacher in person, requesting he pray for them.

She said: "When we found out what they did, my parents and I teared. They have blessed us just as we have blessed them."

The number of foster parents in Singapore has almost doubled, from about 240 in 2013 to about 470 last September.

The Fostering Scheme is an alternative care arrangement that can range from short term to long term, for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, among other reasons.

Their parents might also have been unable to care for them due to imprisonment or physical or mental illness.

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