Fostering effort a family affair

When personal assistant Joy Shuo told some friends she was going to be a foster mum to a baby, their "jaws dropped" because she already has four kids of her own.

But she says: "Having four children of my own, it makes me sad to think there are kids who have been displaced from their families for whatever reason."

A home, with loving parents and siblings, is the "best stable environment" for a child to grow up in - not a hospital, institution or orphanage, insists Ms Shuo, 33, whose husband Daniel Chua, 36, is a pastor.

To prepare her children, aged three to 10, for the addition, she told them that "mummy is bringing home a baby who has no home to go to".

The 21/2-month-old foster baby came to their family nine months ago to live in their five-room flat in Tampines.

On top of her older children's homework, school activities and tuition, Ms Shuo had to go through the routine of burping the baby as well as doing night feeds and diaper changes "all over again".

Work e-mail messages had to be taken care of only after 11pm.

"I had interrupted sleep and I lost my appetite, felt fatigued and fell sick easily," says Ms Shuo of the first month of caring for the new addition to the family.

Her husband was the spare pair of hands when she did the night feeds. He also helped to pick up baby items such as infant formula.

Her parents, who live a 15-minute drive away in Bedok, were roped in too. They walk her three older children, each with different schedules, to and from home and school and tuition centre, a five-minute walk away.

Ms Shuo says: "All these adjustments but for this little life, it's worth it."

Her eldest child Titus, 10, says he was a "little jealous" at first but has since warmed up.

Second child Melody, nine, says the family should buy a bus, while Mary Beth, eight, likes making the baby laugh. Three-year-old Megan just enjoys the laughter.

Ms Shuo admits that she was not sure at first "how much love to put in", given the goal of foster care is to reunite the child with his birth parents.

She says: "I've heard stories about foster mums sobbing when they have to return the child. But I have to think of the big picture here.

"You just love someone and change his life."


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