The MSF Fostering Scheme
The Fostering Service of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) administers the Fostering Scheme for children below the age of 18.
Under this scheme, foster families provide shelter, stability and love to children who need the service. These may be children whose parents or guardians are of ill-health and cannot look after them. Some children have also been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated by their parents or guardians.
The Fostering Scheme is an alternative care arrangement for these children so that they can benefit from a safe, stable and nurturing home environment which facilitates their growth and enables them to fulfil their potential.
There are currently 350 foster children and 337 parents registered under the scheme. More than 5,000 children have benefited from the Fostering Scheme since its inception in 1956.
Making a Lasting Difference
Foster parents come from different walks of life with one thing in common - they want to make a difference to a child’s life. Those interested in becoming foster parents are often assessed on their ability to meet the needs of the child before a child is placed in their care.
Equipping Foster Families
Foster parents will be provided an allowance of $936 monthly for each child they care for. If the child they are caring for has special needs, this amount will be raised to $1,114. The allowance covers the child’s daily necessities, for instance food, clothing, education, pocket money and transportation.
Besides the monthly allowance, Foster Care Officers offer regular support and advice to foster parents through regular home visits and telephone contacts. Induction courses and training is conducted on a regular basis to equip foster parents with the relevant skills to care for their foster children. The training will cover areas such as child development needs and child management strategies. Our 24hr Hotline service allows foster parents to contact their Foster Care Officer when there is an emergency. With the use of the Medical Fee Exemption Card (MFEC), foster children enjoy free medical treatment at polyclinic and government hospitals. Childcare services and enrichment activities are also heavily subsidised by MSF.
Interested parties who would like to offer a child a home and encouragement for a brighter and more secure future can call MSF at 6354-8799 or visit www.msf.gov.sg/fostering to find out more.
Annual Foster Family Party
The MSF Fostering Services (FS) organises the annual foster parent appreciation event as a gesture of recognition for the many contributions made by foster parents in caring for children in need. This year’s Foster Family Tea Reception will be held at the West Ballroom of the Resorts World Singapore and will carry a lively “sun, sand and sea” atmosphere, in line with our theme “Waves of Hope”. Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin will be hosting the event. We are expecting more than 900 guests comprising of our foster families and their foster children. Minister Tan will be presenting awards to foster children who have demonstrated excellent character development or shown achievement in the areas of academics, sports, arts or music.
Fostering Perception Survey
Foster parents are central to the care that is provided to the foster children. Their views and opinions as foster parents will help MSF to be better able to grow fostering in Singapore. That is why MSF has embarked on this inaugural survey to find out the following:
- Understand the satisfaction of the foster parents with regard to processes, training and other support services provided by MSF to the foster parents.
- Understand the motivations of the foster parents to be on the fostering scheme and factors that affect their willingness to continue to be foster parents.
With the growing emphasis on family-based care, fostering is a key placement option in the out-of-home-care landscape. To support this, MSF has increased the overall recruitment efforts for foster parents. In 2015, MSF has also set up two fostering agencies, run by MCYC and Boys Town, to recruit and assess foster parents, as well as support the foster parents when a child is placed with them. The findings from this survey will serve as a useful benchmark with regard to the quality of support and services received by foster parents.
All registered foster parents who were approved as at June 2015 were eligible for the survey. The participation is on a voluntary basis. The survey was mainly done through a one hour, face-to-face interview. Phone interviews were conducted for those foster parents who were not able to arrange for a home visit. The survey started in July 2015 and all the interviews of eligible foster parents were completed in Nov 2015. A total of 246 foster parents out of 312 eligible foster parents participated in the survey.
Of the foster parents surveyed, 9 in 10 foster parents indicated that they are willing to continue fostering.
The three important factors that will affect foster parents’ willingness to continue fostering are:
a. Good Foster Parent Training
85% of the foster parents surveyed felt that the current training does help to prepare them to care for the children. The current training modules cover areas which include understanding roles and responsibilities as a foster parent, understanding impact of child abuse on children, child development needs, and skills in managing children’s behaviours.
MSF is reviewing our various training programmes. For example, the revamped induction programme will incorporate international best practices and will be more activity-based. Other improvements to the training programmes will be rolled out in phases next year.
b. Good Working Relationship with Foster Care Officer
9 in 10 foster parents rated their experience in working with the Foster Care Officer (FCO) as positive. MSF has 12 officers in the Fostering case management team who support foster parents regularly through home visits or telephone. During the home visits and telephone contact, FCOs work with foster parents to find solutions to issues relating to care of the child, share best practices, for example in managing children’s difficult behaviours, or connect them to suitable resources.
c. Need for Better Support during Placement of Children
About one-third of the foster parents shared they found it challenging to be able to get information about the foster child before placement.
One of the reasons is that many of our children are often removed from their homes due to safety reasons, and placed into foster care with very short notice. Hence, information on their care needs are limited. In addition, we recognise that for children, moving into a stranger’s house, even if the family is caring, may still traumatise them. This leads to challenges for foster parents, especially at the onset of placement.
That is why we are putting in place measures to support foster parents as they care for children with high levels of trauma. We are strengthening trauma-informed care training. This training equips foster parents with an understanding that the children’s behaviours can be a result of past traumatic experiences. Where needed, more intensive therapeutic support will be given to coach and mentor foster parents to care for children with higher levels of trauma. We are also looking to introduce training for potential foster parents before they complete the assessment process. This will equip them with the relevant skills to care for children, especially at the onset when information on the children may not be readily available.
Appeal for more Foster Parents to care for children with special needs or children aged 7 years old and above
There are some children who are waiting to be part of a foster family. Some of these children are aged 7 and above, or have special education, physical or medical needs. Their greatest need is a nurturing and safe home environment that will provide them with the love and care that they need.
Foster Parents for Media Interview
There is a need for more foster parents to care for older children 7 years old and above and those with special needs. MSF has identified three foster parents who have participated in the Fostering Perception Survey and are currently caring for children with special needs and/or older children.