Readying The Children’s Hearts

November 12, 2018

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Written by Sarah Giam
Edited by Asst Prof Andrew Duffy and Lee Rou Urn

Children usually need some time getting used to having a new brother or sister – what more a foster child as their new sibling?

But not Timmy and Cindy Ng’s two preschoolers.

“My kids shouted, ‘Hi! Come!’ the moment he (the foster child) arrived, and showed him their toys,” said social worker Cindy, who is in her thirties.

“Before I knew it, the three of them were playing together.”

That was the Ngs’ first foster child, who stayed with them for three weeks in January 2015. It took some work for Timmy and Cindy to prepare their children to be so loving and accepting of the foster child. They had read many books to them beforehand, such as A Mother For Choco by Japanese author Keiko Kasza, where a mother bear cares for many animals such as birds and even alligators; and Maybe Days by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia Kahn Wright, which introduces fostering to children.

However, what first sparked off the conversation on fostering was simply a YouTube animation on the Little Match Girl, which they watched as a family last year.

“We didn’t expect it to have such a huge impact on our kids,” said Cindy. “Our daughter started asking questions like, ‘Why doesn’t her father love her? Why isn’t her grandma around?’ while our son teared up after watching it and said: ‘So sad.’”

Months later, Cindy was even more surprised when she casually asked her daughter what she thought of taking a homeless child into their family, and she replied: “Like the Little Match Girl?” before continuing, “I will give her food and share my toys with her.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Now, the Ngs have been fostering a girl of preschool age for six months.

Timmy, who is in his thirties and works full-time in a church, added: “Besides ensuring that your children know about fostering, you have to assure them that their place in the family will remain unchanged, even with a new addition.”

That is why the couple has one-on-one talks with their own children every few weeks, to hear how they feel about their foster sister.

When asked about how their foster child has changed after living with them, Cindy said: “She was really quiet when she came, but she’s talking more now.”

“She is also comfortable in raising her opinions, and trusts us to mediate fairly when there are disputes between her and our children,” added Timmy.

The couple also noted that she has fewer meltdowns now – she used to scream and cry for over an hour, but now calms down after 20 minutes at most.

Cindy handled those meltdowns by taking time to understand the reasons for them. “Foster children have meltdowns owing to their anxiety at being separated from their natural families,” she said. “They are also less able to manage their emotions, having had so little control over their own lives.”

Cindy also thought about what she wanted her foster girl to learn from such episodes.
Sometimes, it would be simply to breathe as a way of calming down. Other times, it would be that crying will not get her what she wants.

“We used to spank our own children when they misbehaved, but we can’t physically punish our foster child,” she said.

However, like the Ngs’ natural children, their foster girl will have to go to the ‘naughty corner’ if she whines, and have privileges taken away. By the same token, she will receive presents when her siblings do too.

The Ngs have just fostered another girl last week, as they found that they could still make room in their home for another child, Cindy said.

“As usual, the kids hit it off very well, though I’m aware that this child requires more support due to her young age,” she added.

On why they foster, Mr Ng said: “Fostering is not something that’s just important – it’s something that we must do. We need to care for our next generation, so that in 20 to 30 years’ time, they will also care for the next.

“To us, fostering is an outpouring of the love we’ve first received ourselves,” he added. “Hopefully, we can convey to our foster child that she’s worth something – that complete strangers would care for her.”

This article was adapted from ComingHomeSG.

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