Michael Kee and Irene Neo, Foster Parents
Foster Parents’ Experience of Fostering in Singapore
The combination of Irene and Michael’s individual strengths are what help create a loving and conducive environment to foster a child. With her aptitude for logic and organisation, Irene focuses on establishing a comfortable routine that the child can easily adjust to, while Michael’s vision and optimism creates room for the child’s growth and potential to blossom.
The camaraderie between them and their foster child during the interview was effortless and natural. Yet the decision to foster wasn’t always so clear. When Michael first discussed with his wife the idea of fostering 3 years ago, they decided they weren’t fully ready yet. They had many doubts about their capability to undertake the endeavour, and it was a few months before they submitted their application to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Once the process was set in motion, an assessment officer arrived at their door to carry out home visits and detailed interviews with the couple. Upon receiving approval to be foster parents, Michael and Irene also attended the mandatory 10 weeks of foundation and intermediate courses conducted by SSI to prepare for their new roles as foster parents.
The training equipped them with essential knowledge, such as a better understanding of the behavioural and emotional aspects of a child and what happens when a child is taken from their immediate family to be placed with others. Other foster parents were also present to share their best practices and the challenging situations they faced. “We became more confident after undergoing the training. It helped our ability to understand the child, and gave us helpful methods to bond with, encourage and teach the child.”
Presently, both Irene and Michael are also part of foster parent chatgroups, where valuable fostering tips are exchanged. They’ve picked up tips on managing a child’s tantrum with a simple change of words to convey a more effective message. And instead of using the negative-sounding command, “go to the naughty corner”, a more positive outcome can be achieved by simply replacing the key words with “thinking chair”.
|"Seeing her smile, being so happy and healthy – that is one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced. She keeps running over wanting to talk to me, so I know I’ve won her heart."|
While there are challenges they have yet to face with their foster child who has been with them since April 2017, both husband and wife are motivated to stay ready by keeping themselves updated, “Technology advances too rapidly nowadays. We used to play and socialise at the playground. Now, it is all through social media. We have to keep up with the times and master the technology to facilitate practical learning with the child.”
They’ve also had to unlearn some of the knowledge from their own childhoods, along the way, and pick up new approaches to interacting with children.
Instead of the more authoritarian style of parenting that they grew up knowing, today’s parenting is all about establishing a more beneficial parenting method. So far, Irene and Michael have found that their dedication has yielded them significant milestones in their journey with their foster child. One instance is how their child used to pile her plate with a portion larger than an adult’s, overeating to the point of a bloated stomach. Michael and Irene taught her to begin with a small portion first, and ask for second helpings if she was still hungry. They role-played the scenario a few times, with Michael finishing his meal first, then asking his wife for more food. This helped assure her and resolved her food-hoarding habit.
Through their constant prompts of: “What are the magic words?” and “What must you say first?”, Michael and Irene’s foster child is also learning to express her needs and appreciation in an appropriate manner by saying “please” and “thank you”.
Both Michael and Irene have imparted their values and knowledge to their foster child and their devotion and passion has transformed their home into a sanctuary of affection and warmth. They hope more parents can come forward to experience the joys and love a foster child can bring to the home. By providing foster children with a loving home, it can help them to develop into confident and responsible future leaders.