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Once abused, girl finds love with foster family

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing hosted a Foster Family Party for 1,000 foster parents and children yesterday . There are currently 336 children in foster care and 275 foster parents registered under the fostering scheme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. The New Paper on Sunday catches up with two former foster children

When she was 11 years old, she walked to a police station and reported her abusive mother.

"I'm hurt," Anna, now 24, recalls saying there. We are not using her real name.

She was taken for a check-up at a hospital and about a week later, she ended up in a new home, provided by a foster family.

And that has been her home till today. She and her foster family declined to be identified.

Recalling her unpleasant childhood, Anna says in a phone interview that she was born out of wedlock.

She says: "I was left with my mother. Due to stress, she would sometimes turn violent."

The abuse started when Anna was in primary school and by the time she was 11 years old, it became too much for her to bear.

"My mum hit me with her hands," she says.

"When I was in the hospital, I found out that I had bruises and marks."

She can't recollect how often she was abused and declines to say what was the most extreme way she was abused.

Yet, despite wanting to get away, when she turned up at the doorstep of her foster family, she felt uneasy.

She recounts: "I struggled with an identity crisis. When I first stepped into the home, I felt foreign."

It took her time to feel accepted, but she says she cherishes the care she received, and some hard love like curfews.

LOVE AND CARE

She says: "My foster mum makes sure I eat, and that I'm well-behaved in school. If I'm sick, she will make sure I get medical attention.

"She loves me in these ways and I'm very grateful to her."

Her foster mum, whom we shall call Madam Lim, managed to get financial help for Anna's tertiary education. She is now in her final year in a local university and intends to pursue a career in engineering.

She says: "Being in a foster family has provided me with a stable family environment. I received proper education.

"Without fostering, I can't imagine where I would be today. I can't even imagine pursuing education to the level where I am now."

She is close to her foster family.

Anna says: "We celebrate occasions such as Mother's Day and birthdays together."

She is also grateful for the advice and guidance given by her foster siblings. Madam Lim has three sons of her own and has also fostered several other children over the years.

Anna says: "I have several foster sisters. We grew up together and we are quite close."

The girls often have heart-to-heart talks, she reveals.

To the other foster children in a similar situation as her, Anna says: "Don't give up. There's always hope."

WHAT IS FOSTERING

Fostering is different from adoption - a foster child keeps his identity and continues to be the legal child of his natural parents, with whom he will reunite.

But when this is not possible, there have been instances of the foster child staying on for a longer term.

A foster parent should preferably be married, at least 25 years old, medically fit to care for children and willing to provide a nurturing environment.

The foster parent will receive an allowance of $936 a month for each child they care for, to cover the child's daily necessities.
If the child has special needs, this amount is raised to $1,114.

To find out more about fostering, call 6354-8799 or go to www.msf.gov.sg/fostering

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