Fostering in the Time of Covid-19

"What is my future going to be like? What would have happened to me if I had not been fostered?"
Year: 2020
Month: May

Dear Diary
It has been one month since Singapore implemented its Circuit-Breaker series of measures intended to curb the spread of the deadly global pandemic Covid-19. Like many other families in Singapore, we have been stuck at home and unable to travel much since the government imposed strict travel restrictions. The economy has come to a virtual standstill. I personally have lost a long list of work engagements; all postponed or cancelled because of the current coronavirus crisis. We are living day to day only because of the grace of God. 

But unlike most families in Singapore, we have an extra child in the house. He has been here for 6 months, and it seems he will be with us for a long time to come. K first came to stay together with his brother, J. But we have decided that having four boys in the house during the Covid period was too hard for us to manage. We are therefore thankful that J has managed to find love in the home of another foster family.
Keeping it together. Our family during Chinese New Year, three months into the new fostering placement.
One of the rare moments when all four kids were playing together. When kids come from fractured families, even what seems to be most basic to children is something that needs to be taught. 
It has been a whirlwind of a fostering experience when both J and K stayed with us. They messed up our home on a daily basis; ransacking toy boxes and tossing the contents all over the room, tearing books and destroying lovely crockery, and even throwing wooden blocks out of the window and breaking a neighbour's toilet window. 

Coupled with their destructive behaviour, we have also had to contend with bad habits and poor manners. They were always saying "I want" and constantly fighting with each other, and also with our two boys. Another constant staple were their tantrums. This often accompanied a refusal to eat, walk, wear clothes, sleep and a whole host of other seemingly unrelated matters. 

And it was particularly hard because the beaches, playgrounds and many other outdoor spaces had been closed. With four boys in the house, it was complete chaos. Work had to go out of the window, so did homeschooling, which became another victim of the coronavirus. And because we could not go out as much as usual, the kids were almost tearing apart the entire place; that despite Sue's continual attempt to keep the house clean. 
Outdoors time has been key for our foster kids especially during the time of Covid. Kids need the physical, mental and emotional space to release their pent-up emotions.
Not just a walk in the park. How did stricter Circuit Breaker rules affect families with young children? How feasible is it for a father to take his four young kids out alone to the park and manage all of them by himself?
So we finally made the decision to separate our foster kids. It was not an easy decision to make; but we felt that it would be much better for both children to be apart; especially since they were too enmeshed with each other; and if they were apart, they would then be better able to develop an individual identity.

Well, it has been over a week since J left for another foster family; and things are more sane in our household. Little K has developed a new routine, and while he did miss his brother initially, he quickly got back into the swing of things and has now become happy with the new normal. We have also been able to teach him more things in the absence of his brother. Overall, there are fewer tantrums, and K has begun to express himself more. He seems to be picking up more of our vocabulary and seems to be speaking a little more like us. It also seems that he is a very neat child, and he does express a preference for packing his toys as opposed to leaving them in a mess.

As it stands, it has now been 6 months since the start of this foster placement. We wait and pray for the day that K will be reintegrated with his birth family; but the situation is still unstable, and we are likely to continue with the fostering for a long time to come. We are thankful for the changes we have observed in K, and also grateful that the little boy has managed to find his own rhythm in our household; in spite of the oppressive nature of Covid-19 and its isolating effect on families and on children in particular. 
Our last trip to Malaysia with our first foster child. Little R was with us for more than a year. She has since gone back to her birth family and we still miss her very much.
As our family continues in its day-to-day routine of working from home, and seeking a place of solace for ourselves and for each of our children, we persist in the work that we do on the fostering front. For while the coronavirus continues in its rampage on the country; on social relations and on the economy, mental wellness issues continue to rise, and the very reasons that have led to the genesis of the foster care system demand that foster parents continue their work. 

We foster because it is a calling. We foster in spite of the coronavirus. We foster in the hope that the child under our care will grow up with a deeper sense of security and that he would one day receive the complete healing that he needs; a deep healing that would help him manage the years of wounds that were first inflicted when he was far too young to understand.

 Part of a video collage designed for Mothers' Day 2020. Four. That's the number of kids who have come into our family since we started fostering in 2018. We are always reminded that we are not foster parents because it is comfortable or convenient. We are foster parents because it is a calling.

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