He's a 'Papa' at 57

He's a 'Papa' at 57

It is so gratifying when you see these children respond to you and, being kids, they always will.

Madam Zawiyah Wee Abdullah, 53, is one of the 254 foster parents registered with the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Fostering Scheme. These parents care for 310 children.

In renewing his call for more foster parents last month, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said that children who grow up in a home environment fare better in life.

Madam Zawiyah and her husband, Mr Ismail Atan, 57, were introduced to the idea of fostering in 2001.

"We used to wonder what happened to abandoned children," said the housewife.

Mr Ismail, a crane operator, added: "When we read about such children in the papers, we really feel sorry for them."

Their own children, then teenagers, supported the couple's decision to become foster parents.

Said Mr Ismail: "It had to be a joint decision, not just between me and my wife, but also my children.

"I'm very lucky to have this lot, they are very cooperative and helpful. My eldest daughter loves children. Even when she sees a kid outside, she will stop to look."

To date, at least 15 children have been looked after by them.

"There were a couple more who stayed with us for a few weeks. I have lost count," said Madam Zawiyah.

Some of the foster children may come with "behavioural problems" and are hard to reach out to, the housewife said.

Ms Fong Wai Mian, the senior assistant director of MSF's Fostering Service, explained: "Children who need out-of-home care often suffer deep anxiety, hurt, loss and grief at very young ages."

"Many are afraid and confused because they have to leave their families and live with strangers in a new environment."

Madam Zawiyah tries to make them feel they are a part of the family. For example, she takes them along on family trips.


Sometimes, jealousy becomes an issue when the foster children and their own children play together.

Mr Ismail cited the example of a group of three "very rebellious" siblings, who were about the same age as his second-youngest daughter and who simply would not listen.

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