It all started with a pair of siblings, Ali*, then 4 years old, and Siti*, then 3 years old whom Housewife Mdm Maimunah and her husband fostered for eight years.
Today, the couple is caring for three foster children – 8-year-old Faizal* who has lived with the family since he was a toddler; Nadiah* aged 4 and; Aidil* aged 2.
With her two sons and daughter grown up, Mdm Maimunah turned to babysitting her neighbour’s child to fill her time before she learnt about the Fostering Scheme.
Her decision to foster was supported by her husband, Mr Azman Bin Asmat, also 55, who enjoys having young children in the household. Their three children, now aged 21 to 23 years old, embraced the idea too.
While her fostering journey has been rewarding, Mdm Maimunah shared that the initial settling-in stage is a common challenge foster parents face when taking on the role.
“This is expected of any child entering a stranger’s home. They will cry and ask to be sent back to their natural parents,” she said.
When asked about her parenting method, Mdm Maimunah shared that she treats her foster children just like her own.
“We love and care for them all the same. And we do not hesitate to discipline them when needed so that they will grow up to become useful individuals”.
She added, “At home, we encourage them to stick to their routines and to help out with the household chores.”
The happiness and satisfaction Mdm Maimunah derive from fostering have also influenced three of her neighbours to volunteer as foster parents.
Through an email interview, we asked Mdm Maimunah what is the fostering process like in Singapore, and how being a foster parent has impacted her life.
*Name has been changed.
1. How did you find out about fostering and the fostering agency?
We learnt about the Fostering Scheme from a neighbor who was fostering a child at the time. She was aware that I was helping to babysit my neighbour’s children to occupy my time while my children went to school.
She shared more about the Scheme and I wasted no time in signing up as a foster parent with the then-Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports after getting the encouragement and support from my husband and children.
I learnt about the fostering agency through MSF sometime in September 2015. They sat me down to explain the role the fostering agency plays and how they will be assisting me and my foster children moving forward.
2. What type of training did you undergo before starting to foster?
Before I welcomed my first pair of siblings home to foster, I had gone for training under MSF where they taught us how to manage common challenges that most foster parents face when bringing their foster children home for the first time.
3. Did you have any additional support from MSF or organistions?
Subsequently, I was transferred to be under the care of Epworth Community Services. I met up with the staff from MSF who explained the role that Epworth will be playing and how the fostering agency will be assisting me moving forward.
The transfer process was thorough and not complicated. It did not require any additional paperwork on my part.
My social worker from Epworth has provided me with an incredible support system. She is constantly in touch with me to get the latest updates. She is also easily contactable, which makes it easy for me when I need someone to talk to.
3. Why have you decided to take on the role of a foster parent?
I began fostering in 2008. My husband and I made the decision to foster because we felt that we were ready to care for other children. Moreover, our biological children had grown up and were becoming more independent.
As I was previously helping my neighbour babysit her children while she went out to work, I knew that I was capable of carrying out the role. My husband and children were also quick to embrace the idea because they saw the positive impact of fostering.
They love children and have been supportive throughout the fostering journey. They understand that this is a form of volunteering and wanted to help make life better for others as well.
4. What were some of the challenges you faced when taking on the role?
While my fostering journey has been largely rewarding, there were challenges along the way. To illustrate, the foster child’s initial settling-in stage was something that I had to learn to manage. There were tears and tantrums involved for most parts, but this is expected of any child entering a stranger’s home.
As such, my husband and I would make it a point to talk to our foster children when they have calmed down to understand their thoughts and emotions. Also, my husband rents a car fortnightly to take the family out, so we can all get together and feel comfortable and safe around each other.
5. How did you help your foster child/children get adjusted to the new home environment? How did you help your biological child/children adjust to the larger family?
Fortunately for us, my biological children were hands-on and co-operative. As they were onboard with the idea, it did not take much to help them adjust to the larger family.
In fact, when the pair of siblings were living with us, my biological children were able to forge strong relationships with one another. They would interact and play with the foster children.
As parents, we made sure to treat our foster children just like our own. We would go on outings together, have sleepovers at my in-laws place and go on holidays together. I am happy that the foster children feel comfortable being around my family.
6. What is the greatest impact in your life after becoming a foster parent?
I derive great satisfaction from knowing that I am given the opportunity to foster. It makes me happy to know that I can provide love and care for these vulnerable children as well as change their lives for the better.
It has never been about providing them with material wealth, but rather, showering them with the love and attention they deserve and providing them with the sense of security they need to become happy children.
7. What is your advice to others who may be interested in taking up this role?
My advice to those who may be interested in taking up this role is to go ahead and not hesitate. Fostering is a rewarding experience. There are many lives we can help change through our commitment.
Do not hesitate to attend the roadshows organised by the fostering agencies or MSF as there will be professional staff present to help clarify the myths about fostering.
Through these roadshows, you will have the opportunity to speak to other foster parents in the system to listen to their stories.
Interested to be a foster parent? Visit the booths to find out more about the fostering scheme in Singapore.
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