More people becoming foster parents
One parent says seeing foster child flourish is most rewarding part
When Mr Matthe Vijverberg, 44, first met his first foster child in 2016, all the two-year-old girl had was a plastic bag. In it were some diapers, clothes and a grey teddy bear, which he and his wife put into the washing machine.
It was only after the wash that Mr Vijverberg and his wife, permanent residents from the Netherlands and France respectively, realise the bear was actually Winnie-the-Pooh.
The number of foster parents registered under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) fostering scheme has almost doubled from 243 in 2013 to about 470 as of September this year.
More vulnerable children and young people have also been placed into foster families compared with institutions like care homes.
In 2013, there were 1,058 vulnerable children and those below 18 placed in out-of-home care. Of these, about 29 per cent, were fostered.
As of September, 46 per cent of 1,180 individuals were under foster care.
Mr Vijverberg told The New Paper that seeing a foster child flourish is the most rewarding part about being a foster parent.
He said: "Even though they may come from a troubled past, if you can give them a loving home and stability, they really bounce back well."
The couple, who have their own five-year-old son, are now fostering another child, a nine-year-old boy who has been with them for two years.
Since 2014, MSF has moved towards placing more vulnerable children in foster homes .
As part of Foster Care Week 2018, MSF and its four fostering agencies have been conducting roadshows and setting up outreach booths across the island. The week-long drive ends on Sunday.
It was at a roadshow at Bedok Mall in 2015 that Madam Nooraslinda Rahim, 40, and her husband Yusri Yusof, 43, picked up a brochure and became foster parents.
After applying online in August 2015, they were approved to be foster parents in December that year and that night took in their first foster child, an 18-month-old girl.
Madam Linda said: "It was not an easy journey. She cried for the first two weeks."
Mr Yusri added: "We had to start all over again with milk formulas and diapers, which we had forgotten about."
The couple, who have a daughter Ayumi, now 11, fostered the girl for three years.
They have since taken on a few more children, some on short-term respite care.
Madam Linda said she always reminds herself her foster children will return to their biological parents someday.
She said: "Every day when I do things for (them), it is actually to support (their) life after (they) go back. I tell myself that what I am teaching is for (them) to take home."
Former foster child: I was happier at foster family’s home
Raised by her foster family since she was three months old, Mary, now 33, said she sometimes felt like she did not know where she belonged.
Her foster mother was a strict disciplinarian, and it was also difficult for Mary to explain to her classmates why the woman picking her up from school was so much older and wore a sari.
Her foster mother, more than 40 years older than Mary, is Chinese but was adopted by an Indian family.
Mary's biological parents were constantly fighting.
So home leave, when a foster child returns to stay with his or her natural family, was something she dreaded.
Her father had schizophrenia and a personality disorder, which made him temperamental and prone to violent outbursts. Her mother suffered from clinical depression, exacerbated by the frequent rows.
Mary told The New Paper: "I was happier at my foster family's home because it was a nicer place."
Due to her family's instability, Mary said she was placed in the fostering scheme, while her biological aunt took in her younger brother.
A turning point came when Mary took on a contract teaching role at her secondary school after her A-levels.
She said: "I taught kids who were from difficult backgrounds, and I realised I was quite blessed in many ways."
Mary said many of the children had behavioural problems, which she recognised as symptoms of coming from broken families.
Her foster family supported her when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19 and in her first year at university.
She left school to recover and her foster family took care of her while she recovered, visiting her when she was warded at the Institute of Mental Health.
Said Mary: "It was only after I went through that when I realised the profound effect the fostering scheme had on my life."
While fostering is meant to be temporary, Mary's family was never stable enough for her to return and she stayed with her foster parents for 30 years, even after being discharged from the scheme at 18.
Now a financial adviser and happily married, Mary said she feels closer to her foster family than to her biological one.
Mary said: "I think I was literally given a new life." - KOK YUFENG