MSF open to idea of childcare leave
Ministry says it needs to balance needs of foster parents with employers' concerns about business impact
She had to take more than a week out of her 14-day annual leave entitlement to care for her two foster children when they contracted hand, food and mouth disease last year.
As a foster parent, Madam Hazel Sim, 34, is not entitled to childcare leave, unlike a legal guardian.
Foster parents come under the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Fostering Scheme, which offers alternative care for children under 18 and in need of a home.
An MSF spokesman told The New Paper last week that childcare leave benefits are given to natural and adoptive parents.
Foster parents are not extended leave benefits as fostering is usually a "temporary arrangement with the ultimate goal of reintegrating them (the children) with their natural family".
But following feedback from some foster parents, MSF is open to looking into extending childcare leave to them.
"We agree that it is important to support foster parents to enable them to provide safe and stable care for foster children," said the spokesman.
"We will keep the suggestion to extend leave benefits to foster parents in mind, as we continue to develop foster care and balance the needs of fostering with employers' concerns on the likely business impact."
The spokesman added that employers who want to grant more leave to foster parents out of goodwill can request a letter of verification from MSF.
MSF said it supports foster parents in the form of a monthly allowance, training and regular home visits by its Foster Care Officers. There is also a 24-hour hotline service that allows foster parents to contact its Foster Care Officers when there is an emergency.
Madam Sim, who is a saleswoman and foster mother to a five-month-old girl and two-year-old boy, is among 420 foster parents caring for 430 children here.
She began fostering in 2014 because she and her husband love children but do not have any of their own.
"Not all bosses are as understanding as mine. Sometimes, you have to take leave frequently because children fall sick," said Madam Sim, who switched from nursing to sales to better care for her foster children.
"The Government encourages young people to care for foster children, but it should also help us because most young foster mothers have careers.
"You need to have a stable career to support the foster child."
Under the Child Development Co-savings Act, parents of children below age seven are entitled to between two and six days of childcare leave, depending on the length of employment.
Childcare supervisor Anne Lau, 57, who is caring for a five-year-old girl, has already taken three days out of her 18-day annual leave this year to take the child to medical and dental appointments.
Ms Lau said: "If we spend most of our annual leave on our foster children, we cannot take leave for other reasons. We also need some time to rest and attend to our personal issues."