The story of a Sanctuary Care client: Lilian (not real name for protection purposes)
Lost and alone
Lilian was 35 weeks pregnant, homeless and alone when she first sought help through a Family Services Centre shelter. The father of her baby, a foreigner, had left Singapore and had abandoned them both, and her parents had refused to let her return home after she had been released from prison. She had always had a tumultuous relationship with her mother, who was a strict disciplinarian, and the relationship with her father had also become strained following her incarceration.
Finding a Safe Place
With no one to turn to and a baby on the way, Lilian was given residence at Safe Place, an initiative of Lakeside Family Services that reaches out to ladies facing unsupported pregnancy. Safe Place provides case management support and counselling to residential and non-residential clients.
Lilian was allowed to reside at Safe Place until her baby turned four months old. A Safe Place social worker referred Lilian to Sanctuary Care a month after she gave birth to her daughter, Angela, to seek short-term care for her baby for two to three months so that Lilian would be free to work. The goal was for Lilian to find work to clear her debt, save enough money to get a rental flat and afford infant care and necessities for Angela. She planned to apply for infant care when her daughter turned three months old.
Determined to turn her luck around
It was obvious to us that Lilian is an independent and motivated individual who is committed to working hard and handling her issues so that she can provide the best for her baby. She is very resourceful and takes initiative in getting help, like seeking financial assistance. In fact, she started working two weeks after she gave birth, in the hopes of clearing her debt and arrears quickly and saving for Angela’s future. Despite her resourcefulness, since her incarceration Lilian had been struggling occasionally with depression and this would leave her overwhelmed by the the weight of the issues she needed to tackle, especially where her debt and outstanding arrears were concerned.
While her relationship with her father had improved over time, and he was now supporting her with a bit of money and driving both her and Angela to and from appointments, her mother still refused to allow her to return home. Lilian was left with no choice but to apply for a rental flat with HDB.
A trusted carer from Sanctuary Care
Angela was placed with our respite care carer (short-term foster parent) Charmaine. This helped to reduce Lilian’s worries about her baby’s well-being and allowed her to focus on her work and accommodation issues. Because Angela was in respite (foster) care, Lilian was also able to take on extra shifts at work to earn more money.
Charmaine has also acted as a mentor and rock for Lilian, lending an ear to her struggles, working through solutions with her, guiding her on financial management to control her spending and even helping her keep organised with baby monitoring apps. Charmaine has kept a meticulous journal of Angela’s input/output, temperature as well as bathing and sleep timings to assist Lilian with monitoring Angela. She has also helped implement techniques such as Dr Harvey Karp’s 5S steps for soothing babies and has taught these to Lilian so that she can follow through in the future.
When Lilian struggled in the early weeks with breastfeeding, Charmaine guided her to encourage increased breastmilk production and also suggested that Lilian receive breastmilk from other mothers with oversupply to ensure that Angela reaped the maximum benefits from breastfeeding.
A thriving baby and mother
Angela has grown into a chubby little angel who is generous with her smiles. Under the supportive care of Charmaine, she is sleeping and feeding well and has met her developmental milestones.
Lilian’s father has on many occasions accompanied his daughter to pick Angela up from Charmaine’s home so that he too can spend time with his granddaughter. With Lilian’s HBD rental application approved in June, she will soon be moving in to her own home with her baby daughter.