Her first foster child was an eight-month-old girl with special needs who had to be tube-fed. The baby would pull out the tube at least once a day.
The foster parent would lose sleep every night checking on the infant and cleaning up when she vomited, which was often.
But Madam Hazel Sim, 34, never regretted becoming a foster parent because it gave her life more meaning.
She has fostered three children under the fostering scheme of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) which has helped more than 5,500 children.
Madam Sim and her husband, Mr Jackson Lai, 37, have tried in vain to have their own children.
She said: "All we wanted to do was to help people. If there are parents who have children but are unable to take care of them, why shouldn't we do it?"
The former nurse said her first foster child took a lot of work.
Madam Sim would panic when the infant pulled out her tube and take her to the hospital to have it reinserted until she learnt to do it herself.
She would also use her own money to take the child to a private doctor. Only visits to government hospitals and polyclinics are covered by the scheme.
She was heartbroken when the child went back to her biological parents after two years.
Madam Sim is now caring for a four-month-old girl and a two-year-old boy.
She said: "Compared with the previous one, this girl throws a lot of tantrums. With every child, it's a whole new journey trying to figure out how to care for them."
Madam Sim left nursing to become a saleswoman to have a more flexible schedule, and is open to fostering more children.
She said: "It is satisfying watching them learn how to walk and talk. I look forward to their every milestone."
Ms Audrie Siew, director of MSF's Children in Care Service, said: "A child who knows he or she is safe and loved can go on to heal and grow into healthy adulthood.
"We welcome more members of the public to come forward to find out more about fostering, and hopefully become foster parents and extend a helping hand to children in need."
Foster kid hopes to become foster parent
When she was seven, she was told she was going on an "outing" to an auntie's house and would stay there for a night.
That night became 12 years, and the woman turned out to be her foster mother.
Amanda (not her real name), now 19, had been placed in foster care because her mother and father, who later died, were ill.
When she was younger and her friends spoke about their happy families, she would be upset.
She said: "Why couldn't I be like everyone else and stay with my mother? I was nervous and scared that I wouldn't fit into the (foster) family."
She recalled an incident in primary school when her biological mother was warded in intensive care.
Her Primary School Leaving Examination was just days away, and she was distraught.
"I told my foster mother I had to go home to take care of my mother."
Her foster mother, who has two children of her own, reassured her.
"She told me to just focus on my exams, and not to worry about anything else. She said my mother would recover, and even if she didn't, she would take good care of me and ensure that I have a home," Amanda said.
Now studying in a polytechnic to be a nurse, she hopes to become a foster parent one day.
Amanda still lives with her foster family and visits her biological mother at her home occasionally.
"My foster mother didn't have to offer up her place and take care of me for 12 years," she said.
"But she made that choice, and because of her kindness, I am happy and well-fed. I was able to go overseas and go on cycling trips.
"In the future, I would like to give back to society and shower other children with the love and care they require."
About MSF's Fostering Scheme
The Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Fostering Scheme will have its 61st birthday this year.
Children below 18 in need of a safe, stable and nurturing home are placed in alternative care arrangement.
The scheme has 420 foster parents and 430 foster children. By 2020, MSF hopes to have 500 foster parents caring for about 600 children.
A foster parent must be at least 25 years old, must have at least attained secondary school education and a minimum monthly household income of $2,000.Applicants and their family members must go through an interview. Home visits will also be conducted to ensure safety features are in place.
Approved foster parents undergo training before a suitable foster child is assigned. The entire application process takes about two to three months.
Every foster child is given a monthly allowance of $936, or $1,114 for a child with special needs.
Medical fees for foster children are covered, and MSF also funds each foster child for one enrichment course per year.
This article was first published on Mar 14, 2017.
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