SINGAPORE: About 150 more families are needed over the next few years to foster older children and teenagers, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said on Monday (Sep 25).
Mr Lee was speaking at the launch of Foster Care Week 2017 at Waterway Point in Punggol, his first event since taking over the Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF).
A third of foster children are now aged 10 and above.
Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development, noted that more foster parents are needed for this group because “the growing up years, as we all know, can be a very difficult, trying and confusing period for children. They will therefore need good role models to advise them when they need to make important decisions”.
“Quite contrary to common perception that older children and teenagers are harder to take care of and relate to, the experiences of our foster parents who have done so, have shown that fostering older children and teens can indeed be just as rewarding. They can be independent and you can have meaningful interactions with them,” he added.
MSF said that it aims to raise awareness of fostering for older children (those between 10 and 12 years old) and teenagers this year. It noted that at the end of July, it had 430 foster parents and 450 foster children under its Fostering Scheme. The scheme is administered for children below the age of 18 and has helped 5,500 children to date since its inception in 1956.
MSF has also appointed three Fostering Agencies – MCYC Community Services Society, Boys’ Town and Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (PPIS) to help with its efforts.
Head of Fostering Services at Boys’ Town Lee Pei Yu told Channel NewsAsia though the organisation has seen the number of foster families increase, the number of children who need foster homes has also gone up. These are children with disabilities as well as teens.
“A lot of prospective foster families they have this idea that teenagers come with emotional baggage whereby it’s hard to mold their character so it will be difficult, more difficult for them to connect with. But actually these youths, they are aware of why they come into the fostering system and they are often very grateful for our foster families for taking care of them,” she said.
This year’s Foster Care Week features a photo exhibition with photographs taken by children and teenagers depicting how fostering has changed their lives.