‘Be foster parents, and care for kids from disadvantaged families’

Jun 2008    

THE Methodist Children and Youth Centre (MCYC) has been appointed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to help recruit foster parents to join the Fostering Scheme.

Methodists have always answered the call to social action, to express God’s love in practical ways. This is one more avenue of social action that Methodists can get involved in, to love and care for children from disadvantaged families.

Foster parents are volunteers who are willing to temporarily take in children into their family and to care for them. These children, who may be babies of a few days to teenagers, have to be put into foster care because:

■ Their parents are unable to care for them,
■ They have been abandoned,
■ They have been ill-treated by their parents,
■ Their parents are financially unable to cope,
■ Their parents are hospitalised.

In 2005, the MCYC was appointed by the MCYS to provide training for foster parents. The training is designed to equip foster parents for their role and to help them manage the foster children well. It is held once a month at the premises of the Grassroots Club at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, next to the Yio Chu Kang MRT Station.

Methodist Children and Youth Centre helping Govt to recruit volunteers to join Fostering Scheme

Foster children have needs like other children. They need shelter, food, love, education, security and opportunities to play and interact with other children. Can we as Methodists open our homes to give temporary shelter, help and love to some of these children?

Being a foster parent, or being a foster family, will not be easy. There will be responsibilities in looking after foster children as if they are our own children. Yet, they come from different backgrounds, with different upbringing and moral values. Can we be patient and accommodating, to welcome them to our homes?

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, in Matthew 25:35, the King commended the faithful ones by saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was imprisoned and you came to visit me.”

When Jesus encouraged us to love, He encouraged us to show love through our actions. Although donations to help the poor and needy are important, love through actions tells a lot more. That is why God demonstrated His love through action – when Jesus died on the cross for us all.

In the parable, we see the faithful ones making the effort to give food, drinks and clothes to those who needed them.

We see them give time to look after the sick and visit those in prison. Those who are imprisoned are not just those who have committed wrongdoings against society. They may also be those who are hemmed in because of their infirmities and in disadvantaged situations.

But Jesus also spoke about inviting strangers to our house. What a powerful challenge this is for all of us. Love is a very real commitment that demands the giving of our time, our effort and even of ourselves. It will inconvenient us. But, love was never meant to be convenient. How else can we really demonstrate the love of God so that others may understand it?

Two Christians, Mr Robin Lim and his wife Linda, who have volunteered as foster parents since 2003, were featured in The Straits Times on March 20, 2008.

Mrs Linda Lim remembered a boy who told lies, spewed vulgarities and stole from the family. “We tried so hard to talk to him, but it was hard to change him,” she said. The boy returned to his parents after living with the Lim family for some years.

But by far, the most wrenching experience for a foster parent is having to say goodbye when the children find new adoptive parents or return to their families. Mrs Lim said: “It is hard to let the children go, but we have learnt to thank God that they have found a better home.”

Mr Lim said that being foster parents “involve making certain sacrifices in our lives”. But he felt that the sacrifices are matched by the joys they get looking after them.

After five years, the Lims are still looking after foster children. They have set an example to other Christians, exercising Christian compassion for children from difficult family backgrounds.

As the Lord leads, we as Methodists should also step forward to help unfortunate children in the community, not just providing for their physical needs, but also love in a family environment.

Foster parents can indicate the age and sex of children whom they feel they can best care for. Foster parents will be “matched” to a child according to the child’s needs and their ability to care for the child.

The MCYS will provide foster parents with a monthly allowance of $650 to $700 per child. Foster parents will also receive training and will be supervised in their care of these foster children.

Anyone who is keen to be a foster parent can call the MCYC at 6562-2211. Applicants must be at least 25 years old, have strong parenting skills and a reliable source of income, among other requisites.

Tan Khye Suan is the Director of the Methodist Children and Youth Centre.


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