SINGAPORE - When entrepreneur Joseph Gan, 44, and his wife decided to adopt a seven-year-old boy they had been fostering for over a year, they had to help him understand their expectations for his behaviour and the disciplinary methods they would use.
The boy had lived in other homes so they also had to get him accustomed to the family's routines and other practices.
The Gans adopted the boy when they learnt that he would be placed in a children's home if they were unable to do so.
The couple have three sons aged between 10 and 19, and another foster child.
"We felt that our marriage was stable, that we knew how to parent kids, and that we felt we were in a good position to add more kids to our family and help them settle into a stable family," he said.
Fostering is a temporary care arrangement, as the child's birth parents may be unable to care for the child for various reasons.
Under the new Adoption of Children Act 2022, the Bill makes clearer the proposed thresholds and circumstances, and specifies more grounds which the court may rely on to dispense with the birth parents' consent, if they object to the adoption.
This includes cases where the birth parents intentionally caused grievous hurt to the child or failed to provide suitable care for a prolonged period.
Mr Gan said the boy's birth parents agreed to the adoption so there was no need to fall back on the law.
Mr Justin Mui, executive director of Lutheran Community Care Services, an agency authorised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to conduct home study assessments for adoption applicants, said: "I think it's only for very, very rare cases that this amended legislation will kick in, and usually it will really mean that all other reasonable means have been exhausted."
Ms Siti Adilah, director of Apkim Centre for Social Services, said: "For cases where the birth parent is unable to provide care and yet refuses to give consent for adoption, this amendment potentially allows the child to be placed in a better environment earlier. This would reduce disruptions and allow for the child to be in a safe, stable and loving family."
Mr Gan said he and his wife worked closely with the boy's teachers and counsellors to help him deal with his past trauma.
And to allay potential jealousy, the couple make time for all their children one-on-one despite their busy work schedules. They also make it a point to treat all their children fairly, with rules in place.
His biological children looked forward to having more playmates at home, and Mr and Mrs Gan had to prepare them for the difficulties they anticipated.
"Still, our biological children have always been very welcoming of our foster and adopted kids, and accept them as part of the family despite their differences," he added.
Two years into adopting the boy, Mr Gan remains certain of his family's decision, despite the challenges along the way. "It has been a very rewarding journey for all of us."