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Fostering in Singapore: How to support children in need

We spoke to Sheryl Chua, case worker at Sanctuary Care, about the processes involved in fostering children in Singapore...

Teaching our children about love, compassion and charity by donating to those in need, or dedicating time to the community by volunteering, are wonderful ways to help those in need. Foster care is one of the ways people in Singapore – not just parents and families – can give back to society by supporting children under 18 years of age who require an alternative care arrangement. Foster care allows children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience a safe, stable and nurturing family life.

There are two fostering schemes in Singapore: the MSF fostering scheme and community-based respite care. The MSF fostering scheme is for children below the age of 18 who, among other things, have been abandoned, neglected or abused, or whose parents or guardians are unable to care for them. Children under this scheme come through the system through MSF Child Protective Services and may go into care through court orders. MSF fostering placements can sometimes involve providing long term care. Sanctuary Care, a program by Boys’ Town, offers community-based respite care for children in need. If you’ve ever thought about opening up your home and becoming a foster parent, it could be time to make that leap. We’ve spoken to Sheryl Chua, a case worker from Sanctuary Care (a service offered by Boys’ Town), for some insights on what it takes to support a child in need of foster care in Singapore.

Tell us about Sanctuary Care and how it came to be…

Sanctuary Care is a community-based program that offers emergency and short-term foster care, also known as respite care, to babies and young children whose families are experiencing crisis, which makes it difficult for them to provide care for their children.

Sanctuary Care has its roots in Sanctuary House, which was founded in 2005, but closed its doors in 2015 and donated its assets to Boys’ Town. Boys’ Town started a similar program in 2016, named Sanctuary Care, with similar but more streamlined respite services to parents requiring acute or interim foster care for their children.

What kind of services does Sanctuary Care provide?

Sanctuary Care provides free, short-term respite care to help families in temporary crisis. We also work with the families to empower them to change their circumstances so that their children can return home permanently to a safe and stable environment.

In Sanctuary Care, families are referred by community social workers from hospitals and family service centres. Typically, the children who come to us have loving parents and caregivers who would like to continue caring for their children but are temporarily unable to due to issues such as medical emergencies or sudden job loss. Their parents could also be overwhelmed by multiple responsibilities and require extra support. All our cases are voluntary in nature and parents are required to consent to respite care placement before we place a child under the care of a respite carer.

Typically, what kind of families and children come to you for help?

Our children often come from low-income families who have low levels of social support. The parents may have difficulties finding accommodation or employment and are in need of help while they address these issues. There are parents who may be facing incarceration or require admission to hospital while others are single mothers who want to keep their infants long-term, but need extra support during the first year or so. We serve newborn babies and children up to the age of eight, though sometimes we have children above the age of eight who require care as well.

We match our trusted community of respite carers with the needs of the kids. This gives parents a support system for managing circumstances that hinder them from providing the best level of care they can give to their children. Respite care can range from as short as a few hours to as long as three months. The type of placement rests on the needs of the family. Some children require care solely in the daytime on weekdays, while others may only need care during the weekends. Some children may stay over with the foster family during the week.

If a family is interested in becoming a respite carer for children, what is the best way to go about it?

Congratulations for wanting to take the first step!

While being a respite carer can be an incredibly rewarding experience, this is a big commitment, not only for the respite carers, but for everyone else in the family. Be sure to discuss this with your children and other family members before making a decision.

Criteria for being a Respite Carer under Sanctuary Care:

  • 25 years old and above

  • Preferably married

  • Minimum household income of $3,000 (net)

  • Residing in Singapore for at least the next one year

  • Experience in caring for children and willingness to provide a child-safe environment

  • Willingness to support the child in returning to their own family

  • Willingness to work with professionals to support the child

*Applicants who do not meet these criteria will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis

If the role of respite carer is something you are considering, visit Sanctuary Care website or write to us at We will help to answer your questions about how short-term respite care works, whether you are eligible to apply and how to apply. You can find and download the Foster Parents Application Form from Sanctuary Care website.

Once we receive a query for an application to be a respite carer, a social worker and recruitment officer from Sanctuary Care will conduct a home-assessment visit to share with the applicants about Sanctuary Care client group and expectations of respite carers. Sanctuary Care will also conduct a screening, two assessment interviews and a panel discussion. Applicants who pass all assessments will be approved to be respite carer under Sanctuary Care. The entire application process usually takes about eight to 10 weeks.

Sanctuary Care has a diverse community of respite carers hailing from all walks of life. They share a love for children and want to provide children with a safe and happy environment in order to support a family through crisis. While it is no easy task, there is a sense of fulfilment and joy from seeing a child blossom under your care!

Is there anything besides fostering or respite care that people can do to help Boys’ Town and Sanctuary Care?

Most of the children in our care get to see their parents once a week and often, for various reasons, when their foster families can’t take them to meet their parents, we need volunteers to help ferry the children.

Apart from Sanctuary Care, Boys’ Town’s services also include residential, youth outreach, adventure therapy, clinical intervention and family reunification. Boys’ Town serves both boys and girls, from infants to young adults. We help children and youth who come from disadvantaged and disengaged families who may have faced hardship resulting from difficult home situations, financial struggles, abandonment, and abuse. Each year, Boys’ Town works with close to 1500 children and youth within Boys’ Town and from the community. If you have time to spare or wish to donate to our cause, we would be delighted to hear from you!

Written by Sheralyn Loh.

Thank you Sheralyn for featuring this story on HoneyKids.

The full article can be found here.


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