Loving Those Who Need It Most

November 12, 2018

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Written by Sarah Giam
Edited by Lee Rou Urn

Mdm Sarimah bte Amat, a 48-year-old homemaker, has fostered three children to date. Her first foster child Siti*, eight, arrived about four years ago and is still living with her. The other two, Ahmad* and Hassan*, were under her care for half a year each.

Ahmad was a very active seven-year-old child when he was placed with Mdm Sarimah. “We engaged him with plasticine and Lego blocks, as he likes to make things with his hands. You need to find the child’s strengths and channel them positively,” she said.

Hassan, who was four years old when he came under Mdm Sarimah’s care, had speech delays and frequently threw tantrums. He required a lot of her attention and care. Mdm Sarimah shared, “Hassan was my most challenging yet rewarding placement. I saw him progress from being completely unable to speak to singing some lyrics from ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’ He also gave us sloppy kisses to express his love for us. We were really touched.”

“Siti felt that Hassan ‘stole her spotlight’ when he arrived. I had to reassure her and let her know that I ‘sayang’ (Malay for “love”) both of them equally, but Hassan needs more of my attention because he cannot do some things which she can,” said Mdm Sarimah, when sharing about how she had to help Siti get used to the presence of a foster child who needed so much of her attention.

Handling Sticky Situations

Mdm Sarimah talked to us about her experiences handling sticky situations concerning her foster children.

She shared about how she had to help Siti have a healthy and positive view of being a foster child. “Siti was once asked by a schoolmate, ‘Who is your real mother?’ I talked to her and helped her to see that she was very blessed to have so many ‘mothers’ – myself, my sister-in-law, and her natural mother.”

Mdm Sarimah then showed Siti photographs of her natural family, which reminded Siti of how her natural mother cared for her when she was younger. “It’s important to guide the child into knowing who she really is, so she isn’t swayed by other people’s words,” she shared.

Mdm Sarimah also has short chats with her foster children before they go for visits to their natural families, and will remind them not to compare her family to theirs. She said, “I tell my foster children that our families may be different, but they need to respect their own parents no matter what.”

Tips on Foster Parenting

Mdm Sarimah believes in being a friend to her foster children while maintaining her assertiveness as a parent.

“When the children do something wrong, I will correct them in private so as not to embarrass them. Reasoning is my main approach. For example, I will explain to them that they can’t play football at home, as they may slam into the walls or hit someone,” she said.

Mdm Sarimah also ensures that her foster children know they will return to their natural families when family circumstances improve, but lets them know that they can still keep in contact with her.

“For every second that the foster children are with us, we treat them like our own. But my intention is to return them to their families as better children, with new skills and values,” she said.

Mdm Sarimah added: “Every child has dreams. It’s unfair that children can’t fulfill their dreams simply because they don’t have great parents. But what’s the use of pointing fingers at their parents? The child’s still suffering. I’d rather open my hands and home to the children.

“I believe that it’s our responsibility as the community, to give these children love. We might as well mould these young people into good citizens. If not, the problem will return to us, anyway.”

“And once you touch a heart, they remember you for life.”

*The names of foster children have been changed to protect their identities.

This article was adapted from ComingHomeSG.

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