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A Safe Space: Adventures in Fostering

Fostering challenges traditional notions of what a family is and what a family should be. At the end of the day,
what is your idea of "family"?

The younger child seemed a little troubled during bedtime.

"Mummy..." he said.

"Yes Darling," replied Mummy.

"It will be very sad when R has to go home to the tummy mummy and daddy one day." 

"Yes, Darling. It will be very sad."

"But it's all up to God, right?"

"Yes it is. You know that R's tummy mummy and daddy can't take care of any child right now? That's why R is with us."

"Yes I know. R is with us just for awhile. Not like Kor Kor and I. The four of us are a forever family."

"Yes we are. So how will you feel when R goes back to the tummy mummy and daddy?"

"It will be sad, but it will be all right."

The older child, who was a silent participant in the conversation, decided to speak at this juncture.

"Mummy, I wish all the children who do not have a home can come and live with us. We can have many more children in our family."

'Yes," said Daddy, who was the other silent participant. "My heart is so warmed by both of you; how you love R so much, and how you care for R like part of this family."
Our two boys celebrated their birthdays last month. One of our key concerns was what the kids would think about fostering. We were so warmed by their love; not only for our foster child, but for all the homeless children in the world!
It has been more than one month since we started fostering; but while our time with the foster child has been short, this adventure has been more than three years in the making... 

It all began when Sue was invited to a tea session on fostering three years ago. At first I attended the meeting as I wanted to support her. From my perspective, it was only a 2 to 3 hour session, and I thought that my attendance there would not make much difference to my life. 

I was so wrong.

During the session, three sets of foster parents shared about why they decided to foster; what the whole process was about, what it was like to take care of a foster child, and what challenges they faced on a day-to-day basis. It was a lovely time of sharing, and the one thing I remember is that there are so many children in Singapore whose parents are not able to care for them for one reason or another - whether they were on drugs on in prison, whether there was domestic or child abuse, or whether the parents had intellectual issues. I only remember then that I thought fostering was a good thing to do, but did not consider further what that would mean for us.

However we wanted to do something; and so we decided to sign up for respite care - a respite carer is someone who is approved by the government to relieve a foster parent during the occasions when help is needed, for instance to care for the child when the foster parent goes overseas on a vacation. However it would take a couple of years before we would finally be brave enough to submit the forms.
The core work of kids is to play. But for some children, this is not an option for them as they are born into
families with complicated backgrounds, and they do not have the freedom to play freely as kids.
There was then a long interval during which nothing much seemed to happen in the fostering area. Sue, however, continued to go for various fostering talks and gatherings. As for myself, I was of the opinion that I was already in favour of fostering, and did not feel the need to attend anymore such meetings. But it did not mean that I had closed the door on fostering; just that there seemed to be so many other important things to do - such as studies, work, spending time with the family etc. 

One Sunday, our senior pastor shared the story of Bob Goff. In his book Love Does, Bob tells the story of how his children wrote a letter to every single leader in the world to request for a meeting in order to ask each of them what they were hoping for. The idea was that if each leader knew what another person was hoping for, that they could perhaps start hoping for the same things, a step that could lead to world peace. Bob and his wife promised the kids that if any of the leaders said yes, that they would go. And thus began an exciting journey where they visited leaders from all over the world, countries like Bulgaria, Switzerland, Russia, Israel and more! It was truly a fascinating story. And I couldn't believe that it was actually true! (Read more from Bob Goff's book here.)

What struck me about Bob Goff's story was the audacity of his actions. When Bob Goff wanted to do something meaningful, he didn't just talk about it. He didn't just talk about what would be good to do; he didn't just theorise about the merits of his actions, considering the pros and the cons and making lists of what should be done or what could be done or what could not be done.

He just did it. 

We don't have to think about whether or not we want to love our kids; we just love them!
If we want to show love to a child whose parents cannot care for him, it's not enough to only talk about it. We can talk about love the whole day long; postulating what would be the best way to love a person in need; developing 5-year plans or 10-year strategies to love a person or a village or a nation. But all these would amount to nothing if we didn't make the decision ourselves to consciously show love.

Love does.

And so we finally made that decision to submit the forms. We were now certain that we did not only want to be respite carers, we wanted to be foster parents.

And the Bible is clear about God's heart for children who need a home.

Psalm 68:5-6a says, "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity."

God alone takes care of those who are fatherless. His heart is clearly for those without a natural family, and as believers in Christ we are called to align our hearts to what is on His heart. 

We love because God first loved us. We may draw out the best plans; but at the end of the day, what matters most is
what is on God's heart.
But what about finances? How about the time spent with the foster child; what if it affects the time with our natural-born children? What about discipline issues; what if we find it too hard to care for our foster child?  

Love does.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." 

Love does.

What is fostering? It is about providing a safe space for children who would otherwise not be able to develop to their fullest potential in the areas of physical, emotional and mental wellness. It is about providing a safe, nurturing and enabling environment for children to play and to study. It is about providing a safe and stable place for children to develop a healthy sense of identity and to become the person they are meant to be.

It was with a willing heart and open hands that we have undertaken this adventure as foster parents. And while our journey has only been a short one, it has however not been easy. We also do not have all the answers; but we know we can be a safe space for our foster child; and we know we can provide our foster child with the love needed to grow to the fullest potential.
Kids will be kids. As foster parents, we provide the safe space for children to be who they want to be.
Identity formation is a key stage of a child's psychosocial development and it is an important area for them.


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