Tips For Foster Parents

November 12, 2018

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(originally part of ‘Readying The Children’s Hearts’)

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

Timmy and Cindy, who are foster parents, share their insights on what prospective foster parents should do/consider before fostering children:
(Cindy is denoted by ‘C’, and Timmy ’T’)

1. Speak openly about fostering as a family

T: There should be open communication between husband and wife – only then can they have an honest discussion about fostering. Both parties must be equally keen on it.

C: Your birth children’s emotional tanks should also be filled, because taking in another child inevitably means that your attention will be split among more kids. It’s also important to explain why we’re fostering – that it’s an act of love that we’re doing as a family.

T: Be prepared that your foster child will have more needs than your own children. It’s important that your children understand that. To us, fair parenting is not about giving every child the same deck of cards, but giving to each one according to their need, so they are equally provided for. Think about three kids standing on blocks of different heights to climb over a wall.

2. Ensure financial stability

T: Foster care is definitely not an income-generating venture. The monthly allowance of S$936 or S$1,114 (for children with special needs) which the Ministry of Social and Family

Development provides is meant to cover your foster child’s daily expenses like food, clothing, and school fees.

3. Get votes of confidence and support from your community

C: We asked our cell group mates who’ve known us for years: “Do you think we can foster?” We wanted in-your-face replies – either “yes”, or “no”. That said, it’s important to filter out views from naysayers who’ll say stuff like, “You got not enough things to do, ah?” We can’t expect everyone to agree with our vision in life.

It’s also good to get support. For example, young adults in our church’s youth ministry help babysit our children, and some friends even offered to sponsor the foster child’s needs (if the need ever arises).

4. Be mentally and emotionally prepared

C: It’s possible for foster parents to get vicarious trauma from hearing about what happened to their foster child – similar to what counsellors and doctors face. If that happens, talking to someone who can relate might help.

5. Know Singapore’s fostering system

T: Get familiar with the nuts and bolts of the system by speaking to your foster care officer, or other foster parents. This will make your fostering journey a smoother one.

6. Prepare yourself for the foster child’s departure

T: We’ll definitely be sad, but thinking in terms of the child’s best interests helps.

C: Be conscious that fostering is only for a season. Also, although you may feel that your foster child is not going back to a good-enough family, a child is better off receiving good-enough care in his/her own family than in the foster care system. Sure, their family may not be excellent – they might swear, and skip school from time to time – but it’s family.

A quote by Jason Johnson – a foster father and founder of non-profit organisation The Orphan Care Network – which resonated with me is: “The birth parents we struggle to show grace to today were likely the kids 20-30 years ago we would have considered a joy to foster.” They probably had tough lives too. It’s not our place to judge.

Honestly, we should hope that the foster care system is required less and less. That means that children are in good families. Fostering should exist as a last resort, because removing children from their homes is very traumatic for them. So, give your all to the foster child when he/she’s with you.

In some cases, your family might become their only reference of a warm home for the rest of their lives.

This article was adapted from ComingHomeSG.

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