Organised since 2009, this conference brings together individuals and organisations working together to build up the professional capability of staff in Singapore’s out-of-home care (OHC) sector so as to improve the quality of care for children in need of care and protection. Previously named “Residential Care Conference”, the new name of “Rehabilitation and Protection Care Conference” reflects the focus on a diversity of care options.
Titled “Expanding Horizons for Children in Care”, the focus of this year’s conference will be on the development of the range of care options for vulnerable children and on delivering family-based services to support these children and their families. The conference serves as a platform for staff from Voluntary Children’s Homes, MSF and our partners to keep abreast of international best practices, network with and share their knowledge, experiences and best practices in this area of work. Through the conference, we hope that professionals working in the sector will gain new insights into the delivery of more effective services for the vulnerable children in Singapore.
Key Conference Details
- Date: 29 Oct 2014, Wednesday
- Venue: Mandarin Orchard Singapore
- Expected no. of participants: 500 pax
- Profile of participants: Representatives from VWOs, family service centres, schools, hospitals, police, and courts
- Theme: “Expanding Horizons for Children in Care”
- This year’s conference is the 4th conference since 2009.
Current Landscape for Foster Care in Singapore
Since its inception in 1956, more than 5,000 children have been fostered under MSF’s Fostering Scheme. Foster children are usually vulnerable children who may be abandoned, neglected, abused or whose parents or guardians are of ill-health and cannot look after them. Under the scheme, foster families provide caring homes to these children. There are about 325 children on the Fostering Scheme today and over 235 foster parents. In general, foster families comprise married couples in the middle age range (mostly between 41 to 50 years old) who have children of their own. Some are childless couples. We have foster families from the different races and nationalities as well. They come from all walks of life ranging from homemakers to working professionals.
For children in care, they are unable to live with their natural families. To help these children grow well, it is therefore important to provide a caring and safe family environment where they are able to develop positive attachments and have good role models. Kinship care would be one key option. Where that is not possible, caring for children in a foster home offers vulnerable children an opportunity to grow up in a loving family. For children who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, foster care offers them an experience of positive family life which they may not have been able to experience in their natural family setting and puts them on the pathway to healing and recovery.
In the past, the Fostering Scheme mainly catered to providing care for babies and very young children under six years of age. We are now looking for more foster parents to care for older children as these children will also benefit from care in a family environment. While there is still a need for foster parents for these young children, more foster parents who can care for older children or even youth in a nurturing and loving home environment are needed as well. We need more foster parents. MSF is also the only formal provider of foster care currently.
Fostering Agencies Pilot
MSF will be appointing Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to set up Fostering Agencies (FAs). FAs are appointed agencies that will deliver foster care services to vulnerable children. This will be a 3-year pilot, starting from 2015, that will cost approximately $8 million. More details on the start date will be released when ready. The objectives of the FA pilot are as follows:
- Build foster care capability within the community
- To expand the capacity of fostering so that more children can have benefit from foster care.
- Broaden foster parent recruitment efforts by tapping on the FA’s community networks
The FAs will have 3 main roles:
- Support foster parents to provide better care for vulnerable children
The staff in the FAs will provide regular support to foster parents to facilitate the care of the foster child. This includes providing counselling and parenting advice, brokerage of services for the foster parents and/or foster children and assisting the foster parents in integrating the foster child into their families. Staff in FAs will also provide regular contact with the foster parents through phone calls or home visits, and organise additional training to equip the foster parents with skills to better care for the foster children.
- Recruitment and outreach to potential foster parents
FAs will organise outreach initiatives to raise awareness of the need for foster parents and actively recruit new foster parents. FAs may tap on their parent organisations and existing community networks to reach out to potential foster parents. MSF will also partner the FAs in outreach efforts.
- Assessment of foster parents
FAs will assess potential foster parents on their ability to meet the needs of children in care. All applicants will undergo a stringent screening and assessment process. FAs will present their assessments to an MSF panel which will evaluate before giving final approval.
Supportive measures for FAs
MSF will work very closely with the appointed FAs to guide and train them in the provision of foster care services. Support such as training, joint case discussions and job shadowing with MSF Fostering Services staff will be provided to enable the FAs develop their capability to deliver quality foster care services.