In collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and in support of the Foster Care Week, BYKidO will be sharing a series of stories from real-life foster parents to share their stories and their experiences on the fostering journey.
Giving Unconditional Love for Vulnerable Children
It all started with her youngest daughter. One morning during a family breakfast, more than 15 years ago, Madam Asiah Binte Mohamed Salleh’s daughter requested for more younger siblings whom she could share her toys and grow up with. This rather unusual request eventually led Madam Asiah and her husband, Mr Md Ashraf Koh Bin Abdullah, aged 57, to sign up to be foster parents.
Photo credits Madam Asiah Binte Mohamed Salleh and Mr Md Ashraf Koh Bin Abdullah
While the daughter’s request started them on this journey to find out more about fostering, they soon discovered that fostering was not about giving a companion to their daughter but an excellent way for the whole family to give back to society.
Madam Asiah, now 58, and her family has since opened their home and provided unconditional care and love for nine foster children. Most of them were teenagers. Currently, Danial* (*not his real name), 14, and Farid* (*not his real name), 5 months old, both boys, are under their care. Danial has been living with Madam Asiah since August 2004, while Farid* was placed with the family in July 2018.
Madam Asiah acknowledges the fact that many foster parents would prefer to foster toddlers instead of teenagers and understands why they think that way. Raising foster teenagers may not be as easy as they would usually want to assert themselves and do things their way. Madam Asiah, however, reminds us of the importance of understanding that these teens may be this way because they did not have anyone who believed in them or who could give them proper guidance in the first place.
“Although they may appear very much in control of their lives, teenagers, just like any younger children, need someone to love and care for them.” - Madam Asiah
Madam Asiah and Mr Ashraf Koh believe that being patient with them and gaining their trust is vital. So, they make sure they take time to explain and reason with them, especially when they misbehave. Instead of being top down, she feels that it is important for the foster teens to understand why there are rules and boundaries such as curfews.
On the biggest satisfaction as foster parents, Madam Asiah shares that “providing unconditional love for them (vulnerable children) is the best thing that my husband and I could do.” She adds, “When they are with us, they are a part of the family. We do everything together – be it celebrating birthdays or having family outings together.”
She also talks about another challenge when fostering teenagers – their growing curiosity and interest to experience new things. From attending gatherings with friends to staying out later than usual, the couple makes sure that they do whatever they can to look out for and protect their foster children.
“Although they may appear very much in control of their lives, teenagers, just like any younger children, need someone to love and care for them. It makes a world of difference when they know that there is someone who believes in them and who will love them unconditionally. And despite what many parents may think, foster teenagers do open their hearts to you if you open your heart to them,” sums up Madam Asiah.
Madam Asiah also shares some useful tips for those who may be interested to take the step forward to become foster parents, and are considering fostering teenagers:
- Build a relationship with your foster teenager(s)
- Help them feel safe and gain their trust. When the trust has been established and the relationship is strengthened, it will be a much smoother journey
- Communication is key. Good communication with teenagers must be two-way – teenagers like to know that someone is listening to them
- If you have room in your home love to give and a strong support system, go for it.
- Children need unconditional love, absolute security, and a deep connection, to prepare them to overcome life's challenges
MSF Fostering Service
To find out more about the MSF Fostering Service, call 6354 8799, WhatsApp 9645 8231, email email@example.com or visit the MSF Fostering website, www.msf.gov.sg/fostering.
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