Nov 27, 2020

10 Interesting Things about Fostering in Singapore you probably didn't know

Becoming a foster parent is a remarkable way to make a big difference in a young person’s life. In Singapore, the Fostering Scheme is administered by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and it aims to provide an alternative care arrangement for children who are below 18 years of age and are in need of a safe, stable and nurturing home.

Typically, children are placed in foster care because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned. In these cases, they  are no suitable kin carers and they are placed with a foster family as temporary care arrangements. 

Munifah Binte Abdullah and her husband Omar Bin Shaik Ibrahim. are a couple who has taken up fostering since July 2019. They are currently caring for two female foster children, aged 13 and 14. They  have a biological child, aged 24. She shared with me that she first heard about fostering when one of their relatives, who was working at a Social Service Agency at that time, introduced the idea of fostering to her. She started googling to find out more about fostering and when she shared about fostering with her husband, he was fully supportive of the idea. They decided to foster as they love children, and they wanted to do their part to help vulnerable children who needed love and a stable home environment.

Similarly, Ms Darshenee Devadass, a Senior Foster Care Officer at MSF, was drawn to the work when she graduated from university. She had seen officers tear while recollecting their cases and also glow when they greet the children under their care.

Photo courtesy of Ms Darshenee Devadass

It reminded her that she could make an impact on someone’s life and a child’s life in particular, especially since children have limited control or say in the decisions made for them. So when the job opportunity arose, she took it. And after 3 years, she admitted she still cannot see herself in other fields.

I had the opportunity to interview both Munifah and Darshenee, and I have to say I learnt new things about fostering in Singapore that I never knew before. Most importantly, I also had the chance to clear up certain misconceptions that I had.

And I have the feeling that you may share some of the similar misconceptions as me.

Via Flickr

Here are ten interesting things about fostering in Singapore that I found out:

1. You don't have to be an existing parent to foster

SURPRISE SURPRISE! Yes, you dont need to have your own kids to qualify as a foster parent.

You have to be married and apply together as a couple. Both of you have to be at least 25 years old though. Other criteria that comes into play include:

• Medically fit to care for children

• Minimum monthly household income of S$2,000 and a Per Capita Income of at least $700

• Attained secondary school education

• Experience caring for children and/or with strong parenting skills

• Willing to ensure a child-safe home environment

• Not be dependent on the fostering allowance as a main source of income

The thing is, foster parents comes from all walks of life. Although having another child in the household can provide additional support and company for the foster child, couples with no children can still provide a happy and nurturing home environment as long as they have the heart for vulnerable children. Trainings, resources and toolkits would also be provided to equip foster parents with the knowledge and skills to help them in their fostering journey.

2. The foster application process isn’t difficult

Put off by the application process? Don't be, because the process is pretty straightforward and support is provided at every step of the way. In fact, the scenarios asked during interviews are experiences one would expect to go through when they become foster parents.

Munifah recalls that after submitting their application to become foster parents, the application and assessment process which included interview sessions and a medical check-up took about 3 months. During the application process, they were also able to indicate their preference for the foster child’s age and gender.

"We indicated that we would prefer to care for an older child between 7 to 12 years old, as they would be more independent. After we were approved as foster parents, we attended training sessions conducted by Social Service Institute for foster parents. The whole process went very smoothly for us," she shared.

Application forms can be submitted online, by post or by email. Click HERE for more details. 

3. You don't need to be well-off to foster

While it is important for foster families to be financially stable, becoming a foster parent in Singapore doesn’t depend on having a bulging bank balance. There is the criteria of a minimum monthly household income of S$2,000 and a Per Capita Income (Total household income / Total number of people in the household) of at least $700, but what is more important is being able to provide a safe and stable family environment for the foster child to grow up in.

In addition, MSF provides foster parents a monthly Fostering Allowance of S$936 or S$1,114 (for a child with special needs) for every foster child under your care. The allowance will help to defray the daily expenses of the child such as food, clothing, education, tuition, transport expense, etc. There are also Childcare and Medical Subsidies that foster parents can tap on.. MSF also provides every foster child with a Medical Fee Exemption Card (MFEC) to cover all medical expenses at polyclinics and Government hospitals.

4. Working foster parents are entitled to childcare leave too

Ok, this is something I didn't know.

As of 1st July 2020, foster parents enjoy childcare leave benefits for their foster children, just as natural parents do under the Child Development Co-Savings Act and Employment Act. A foster child will now be considered in the same way as a natural child of the foster parents. So if your foster child is below 7 years old, you and your spouse can each enjoy 6 days of paid child care leave over a 12-month period too! If your foster child is between 7 and 12, you are eligible for the 2 days extended childcare leave too! With the leave benefits, foster parents who work can utilise the leave to take care of their foster children. For example, they can bring their foster children to see a doctor when they are ill. 

5. Foster parents receive ample support throughout the entire foster period

Training for first-time foster parents? Check.

Financial support? Check.

Childcare leave benefits? Check.

But beyond all these, foster parents also need both physical and emotional support. Foster parents are never alone in their fostering journey. Support will be provided by MSF and the existing network of foster parents.

A Foster Care Officer will be attached to every foster parent to provide guidance and support. Your officer will maintain contact with you and your foster child through regular phone calls and home visits. Darshenee shares that  the frequency of the visits is tailored to the different needs of the child and the foster family. The purpose of each visit may also vary. For some visits, she would check in with the foster family to find out how they and the child have been doing. For other visits, she would spend more time with the foster child to teach them different skill sets. There have also been occasions where she spent time playing board games with the foster family and foster child to help them bond when the child first arrived.

Photo courtesy of MSF

"We also help to manage the relationship between the foster family and the foster child. This means understanding the needs of the child and helping the foster parents navigate the intricacies of building a relationship with them. In some cases, this relationship may take time to form and it is important that we are there to support them," she said.

She then recounted a particularly case which warmed her heart. "I was managing a 6-year-old foster child who had difficulties settling down in his new family - he would often fight with his younger brother at home, and was aggressive towards his classmates in school. Our team of MSF officers had regular sessions to teach him to manage his emotions, and we worked closely with his foster parents to set ground rules for him at home. It was initially challenging to retain his attention during the sessions that we had. After a while, I decided to try different strategies to hold his attention, for example, using a pictorial chart to illustrate the ground rules and using his favourite toy car to explain concepts to him through stories. These seemed to work because when it came to looking at colourful pictures and his favourite car, he was much more attentive and engaged! It is an ongoing effort working with this boy and his foster family, but seeing how he has improved so much from day one makes it all worth it and goes to show how important creativity is when engaging a child."

Munifah added. "Throughout our fostering journey, our Foster Care Officer has been supporting us and providing guidance on how we can better manage and interact with our foster children."

In addition, Support Groups have been formed  by some foster parents. These support groups provide an avenue for foster parents to share their experiences and best practices with one another, as well as offer a source of emotional support and encouragement. And in case of emergency, foster parents will be able to obtain immediate support via MSF's 24/7 emergency hotline.

6. Fostering can be challenging at times, but it is immensely rewarding too

Munifah's biological son was already an adult when they decided to foster a child so when they first raised the idea of fostering to him, he was quite hesitant, and asked why they wanted to foster. They explained to him the background of these vulnerable children and shared that these children needed foster families to meet their daily needs and shower them with love and care. Eventually, they managed to convince him, and he supported their decision to foster.

But even then, they had challenging and stressful moments as well. When their first foster child came, she had difficulties adapting to the new environment and was afraid of sleeping in the room alone at night. So every night, for the first week, Munifah had to sleep in the same room to accompany her. She was also very reserved and quiet when she first came and would not initiate any conversations with her. Even up till now, one year later, she is still learning to open up. But Munifah and Omar believs in giving their foster daughter the space she needs. The role, as a foster parents, is to encourage and comfort her whenever they notice that she is feeling down.

Munifah added, "Fostering may be challenging, but the satisfaction you get when you see your foster children growing and learning would make it all worthwhile."

And she wouldn't trade it for anything else because she told me, "One of the happiest moments was when my first foster child asked if she could join in to help me bake pineapple tarts during the Hari Raya festive season. I was surprised that she was interested to learn how to bake. Since then, she also developed an interest in baking, and we would spend time baking together." She also said that she enjoys spending time talking to her foster children each day after they return from school.

In fact, Munifah feels that her foster children have made her a better person. "My foster children have taught me how to be more patient, to be a better listener and to try to understand things from their perspectives. It is a continuous learning process," she remarked. "There are many ups and downs in our fostering journey, but I always remind myself that these children need our care and protection and that has given me the strength and motivation to continue."

7. Fostering is NOT a waste of time

Munifah shared with me that one of the misconceptions that people have is that fostering is a waste of time, and people do not see the need to foster.

"However, people need to understand that there are vulnerable children, children who may have been abused, neglected or abandoned, who require a safe and loving home environment. On the contrary by  becoming foster parents, we are providing a positive environment for them, and giving them an opportunity  to achieve their dreams," she continued.

Another misconception she  shared was that it is more difficult to foster a teenager. She feels that caring for a teenager is not necessarily more tougher because there are different sets of challenges when it comes to fostering children of different age range. For example, when caring for infants, the challenge comes in the form of night feeds and bathing the child. For teenagers, they are more independent and can manage their own daily needs. "Our role as foster parents would be to provide the safe emotional space for them, to understand them and to build a meaningful relationship with them."

Via Flickr

8. It is perfectly fine to take a break

In the fostering ecosystem, the well-being of the foster children and the foster family are equally important. "The children who are in foster care have been removed from their natural families because of safety concerns. So there are usually heightened emotions and stressors that the officers and foster parents would have to look out for. It is thus important for foster parents to understand and meet the care needs of the child, which contributes to their holistic well-being. Foster Care Officers work closely with foster parents and we also have regular sessions with the foster children to ensure that their needs and well-being have been met," Darshenee explained.

For foster parents, she often reminds them that they cannot fill their foster children’s emotional jar if their own jar is empty. She encourages foster parents to take a break to rejuvenate. So foster parents may request for respite care from other foster parents whenthey are unable to care for the foster child for brief periods of time.

Munifah offered a piece of personal advice, "I think it is important for foster parents to learn to manage challenges and stressful moments and find time for self-care. Whenever I feel stressed, I would take some time off to dance, sing or bake. I enjoy doing those activities and it helps me to relieve my stress."

9. Fostering is HEARTwork > Hardwork

Potential foster parents should know that foster children have needs like any other children. They need love, shelter, food, education, security and an opportunity to play and interact with other children. As such, they must be committed to ensure that these needs are met. Qualities that contribute to good parenting such as patience, understanding, perseverance and firmness, will help the foster parent to forge a good relationship with the child. Also, as some children have been abused or neglected, they may have more needs and may thus require special attention in terms of coping with their feelings. Foster parents’ patience, care and attention will help the child to cope and in time, heal and overcome their difficulties.

In addition to the potential foster parents, everyone living in the household, including children, parents or in-laws, must also be on board with the idea of fostering and agree to play their part. This is because everyone in the household will be involved in the life of the foster child. Each household member must understand what fostering is about and how they will make a difference in the life of the child.

Darshenee further shares, "Some applicants come into fostering bearing the same expectations of the foster child like they would expect from their own children. However, it is important to understand that foster children come from vulnerable backgrounds and some of them may have had traumatic experiences. Hence, when foster children first come into foster families, there may be some differences in their habits, thinking and behaviours. Especially during the initial periods, foster parents cannot and should not expect the foster child to be held to the same standards as other children. Instead, foster parents should be patient and have flexibility when managing their foster children. They should also be ready to spend time to slowly gain the trust and build a relationship with their foster child. With the aid of the foster family, the child can grow and flourish just the same."

"Secondly, some people have shared with me that they would never be able to love someone else’s child, especially an older child, and hence they are hesitant to foster. However, I believe, like all new relationships, the foster parent-child relationship just needs time and nourishment for it to develop. Through the day-to-day activities and quality time, the bond will grow organically. Foster parents would also be able to build strong and meaningful relationships with an older foster child / youth. At the end of the day, foster parents will find that what they have developed is a lovely human connection - one that ensures the well-being of the child and fulfilment for the foster parent."

Munifah perhaps hit the nail on the head when she said, "As foster parents, it is important to have patience, grit and to be good listeners."

10. Fostering doesn't have to be daunting

Darshenee summed it up perfectly when she said, "To put it simply, it would be to let your faith be bigger than your fear. Often times, I hear from foster parent applicants about their concerns surrounding the uncertainties and worries they have about fostering. However, all that the potential foster family truly needs is an open mind and a willing heart. It is a journey of discovery that brings great meaning and purpose to the foster child and the family. It is also a journey that Foster Care Officers, other professionals and the fostering community will walk alongside with you every step of the way."

Munifah concluded, "Always remember what motivated you to foster initially, and that would keep you going as foster parents."

Ready to find out more about fostering? Sign up for one of the upcoming sharing sessions in the month of November or December. For more details, visit HERE.

Munifah has a final piece of advice for you:

"Mentally prepare yourself before you apply to become foster parents. It is a continuous learning process, and there may also be sacrifices that you have to make along the way, for example, making adjustments to your daily routine. However, if you feel that you have the love to shower upon these children, do consider becoming foster parents."

To learn more about becoming a foster parent in Singapore and/or to apply to be one, you can call 6354 8799, WhatsApp 9645 8231 or email  For more details, visit our fostering website HERE.

In collaboration with Ministry of Social and Family Development

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