SINGAPORE: More foster families have been recruited and as a result, more children could be placed in foster care over the last three years, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Wednesday (Mar 8).
There were 420 foster families in 2016, an increase of 73 per cent from 243 families in 2013. The aim is to have 500 foster families by 2019, said MSF.
It added that 430 children were placed in foster care in 2016, up 39 per cent from 309 in 2013.
“This achievement is very encouraging and I would like to thank these warm-hearted foster parents for opening their hearts and homes to vulnerable children who need love and care,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim in Parliament.
The increase in numbers was the result of greater efforts to raise awareness on fostering, said MSF, citing how it organised roadshows, worked with community organisations, religious groups and private organisations, as well as reached out to the community through radio and television programmes.
Two fostering agencies - MCYC Community Services Society and Boys’ Town - appointed by the ministry in 2015, also contributed to expanding fostering capacity, said Associate Professor Faishal. “These fostering agencies are currently supporting 150 children. We plan to set up a third fostering agency later in the year,” he added.
In addition, the ministry said it is looking for more foster parents to provide care for infants under the age of two, children aged seven and above as well as children with special education, physical or medical needs.
As for residential care - the alternative out-of-home care option for vulnerable children and young people - MSF said there was a dip in numbers from 749 in 2013 to 643 in 2016.
"It would be even better if more natural families can care safely for their own children and not require out-of-home care at all,” said Assoc Prof Faishal. “Many caregivers who come to our attention through the child welfare system do want to care for their children. With additional support and links to resources, it is possible for them to learn how to provide better and safer care for their children.”
He pointed to MSF’s Safe and Strong Families (SSF) pilot announced last year, which aims to preserve the care of children within their families, and reunite children with their families when conditions are safe and stable.
Since February this year, families and children have started receiving SSF services from eight newly appointed agencies, including Muhammadiyah Welfare Home, Singapore Children’s Society and The Salvation Army. MSF expects to reach out to 400 families over three years.