It's joy and heartache for foster dad of 15 years

Elite policeman Gerard Nonis and his wife have four children of their own, but that has not stopped them from fostering other children for the past 15 years.

The Senior Station Inspector 2 and his wife, Susanna Daniels, have taken care of children who were abandoned or ill-treated, or whose parents and guardians were too ill to care for them.

These children were placed under the Fostering Scheme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Their story, reported by Home Team News, was shared by the Singapore Police Force on its Facebook page yesterday.

The couple, who live in a five-room Housing Board flat in the west of Singapore, have three sons and a daughter.

The eldest son is in his 20s, and the youngest is 12. They have three foster children under their care.

While space may be tight, there is a "comfortable happy kind of crowdedness", said Mr Nonis, an instructor with the Singapore Police Force Special Tactics and Rescue unit.

The 52-year-old told Home Team News: "We have one room for the boys and one room for the girls, both with double decker beds… if they want to watch TV to get to sleep, they can just sleep on the couch."

Daniel (not his real name) has been with the Nonis family since he was seven months old.

The 14-year-old, who is now in secondary school, said that growing up in the Nonis household has been "fun and enjoyable" and that he feels "very blessed".

The couple, who first met in Namibia when Mr Nonis was posted there as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in 1999, said that while fostering gives them satisfaction and happiness, it also comes with the heartache of letting go of the children eventually.

But Mr Nonis described the overall experience as "really worth the effort".

He said: "Every child needs to have a father, mother and siblings to interact with. There's no better place for that than a home."

More than 5,000 children have benefited from the Fostering Scheme, which was started in 1956.

According to the Home Team News report, there are 339 foster children and 278 parents registered under the scheme, which provides a safe place for children temporarily.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.