New handbooks launched to ease children's transition into foster families

(From left) Ms Audrie Siew and her husband Khor Chune Keat with their foster child Jodie (not her real name). PHOTO: COURTESY OF AUDRIE SIEW AND KHOR CHUNE KEAT

SINGAPORE - New handbooks to ease the transition for foster children into their foster families were launched on Saturday (Nov 20), as 20 foster children were recognised for their achievements in a virtual ceremony.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli announced the launch of the handbooks, which contain tips on how the children can connect with their foster family, reflect on various emotions they may experience, and manage difficult situations.

There are two versions, one for children aged 12 and below, and the other for those aged 13 and above.

Mr Masagos was speaking at the eighth annual Awards Ceremony for Foster Children and Youth, where three foster children received the Outstanding Achievement Award.

The Outstanding Achievement Award recognises foster children and youth who have displayed well-rounded and consistent achievements in various areas such as academics, character, and leadership.

Seventeen other foster children received Commendation Awards for their achievements in the areas of academics (11), sports and arts (three), and character development (three).

One of the Outstanding Achievement Award recipients was 17-year-old Vaish (not her real name), who moved in with her foster family at age four.

She was confused in her new and unfamiliar environment, and had trouble with the English language when she started her schooling.

However, with her foster mother patiently sitting with her as she studied and revised before every exam, she improved both in grades and confidence. The recently graduated special education school student was even appointed assistant head prefect last year.

She said: "My foster family has given me a safe place to call home, and they have been taking care of me for so many years, since I was four years old.

"My life would not be the same, and I would not have what I have now without my foster family."

At the ceremony, Mr Masagos said that many foster children have thrived and done well with the support of their foster families.

He said: "Many of you have chosen to be courageous and have shown resilience, in your own unique ways. We are very proud of you."

He added that fostering is a noble calling, and noted that this year marks 65 years of the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) fostering scheme.

Addressing foster parents, he said: "Your selflessness and love have enabled (the foster children) to not only grow up well, but also to thrive and to give back to society."

Since 1956, foster families have made a positive impact on the lives of more than 6,000 foster children, said the MSF.

Under the fostering scheme, foster families provide a nurturing home environment to children and young people who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.

Foster care is a temporary arrangement and the end goal is to reunite them with their natural families, if possible.

MSF hopes to increase the pool of foster families so that more children can benefit from a home-based environment, and is still looking for more families to step forward.

IT consultant Khor Chune Keat, 47, said he and his wife, Ms Audrie Siew, 47, a social worker, began fostering in September 2017 because they wanted to help break the cycle for the vulnerable children who may be faced with problems that are intergenerational.

They are currently caring for 12-year-old Jodie (not her real name), who was among the Commendation Award for Academic Achievement recipients on Saturday. They have been caring for her since July last year.

Of Jodie's achievement, Mr Khor said: "When she first came, she was really struggling with school. I am so happy because I saw her pour her heart and soul into studying, and her efforts have borne fruit."

Jodie added: "Maths was my worst subject but I was amazed that the situation can improve from not even being able to get 20 per cent to passing consistently. I must thank my foster parents and my teachers for believing in me when I did not believe in myself."

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