2. As a policy, MCYS does not comment on individual foster cases so as to protect the interests of the child. However, we have to make clarifications on this case, because confidential information on the child has regrettably been released in the public domain and some of the information was inaccurate and misleading.
MCYS Fostering Scheme
3. The MCYS Fostering Scheme provides care for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Foster parents play an important role in providing alternative home-based care for infants and children who for various reasons are unable to remain with their own families. While the children are on the scheme, MCYS officers work with the natural parents or guardians on the longer term care plan.
4. Fostering is not adoption. Foster parents do not have legal parental rights over the child. They are briefed on their responsibilities in meeting the foster child’s needs and in ensuring the confidentiality of the child’s background to protect the interest of the child. Foster parents sign an agreement to acknowledge the terms and conditions of the fostering arrangement. MCYS provides support for foster families, including a monthly allowance to cover the child’s expenses, training, advice and other assistance.
5. MCYS recognises that foster parents and their foster children develop bonds over time, and some find it difficult to part. We have put in place training for foster parents. We have also arranged for experienced foster parents to share with others on how to prepare for and cope with separation.
6. In September 2008, this particular child was referred to MCYS by the police as his mother was serving a prison sentence. We consulted the child’s mother who agreed to place the child under foster care until her discharge from prison.
7. The mother is a Malaysian and the child was born out of wedlock. In accordance with the laws of Singapore, the child is not a Singapore citizen by birth. His citizenship status follows that of his mother’s. Upon the mother’s discharge from prison, both she and her child would have to return to Malaysia.
8. In this case, the foster parents were told of this from the onset. Subsequently, they signed an agreement indicating they understood that the child would not be placed out for adoption in Singapore, and that all information pertaining to the child should be kept confidential. They also agreed to cooperate with MCYS on the care plan for the child. At the same time, we have been liaising with the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the welfare needs of the child will continue to be met in Malaysia upon their return.
9. MCYS officers had met with the foster parents throughout the time the child was in their care. In total, we had made contact with the foster family on 13 visits and in more than 20 phone calls over the past one year to ensure that the child was doing well and to prepare them for the return of the child to his natural mother. These meetings intensified as the time drew near for the child to return with his mother to Malaysia.
10. On the agreed date and time, the foster parents did not release the child. Recognising the feelings of the foster parents, MCYS officers gave the foster family more time. We continued to engage them. They eventually agreed to cooperate, and the child has since returned to Malaysia. At no point was physical force used to remove the child from the foster parents.
11. The mother has the parental rights to the child. Prior to her return to Malaysia, the mother had indicated her desire to continue caring for her child. The Malaysian Social Welfare Department will work with the mother on the care arrangements for the child. As part of child welfare procedures, the Malaysian Social Welfare Department has applied for a court order to place the child temporarily in a children’s home pending further arrangements. This will help ensure that the child’s welfare is looked into and protected. In the meantime, the mother has access to the child.
12. MCYS recognises the challenges faced by foster parents and the children under their care. We will continue to support foster parents and to protect the interests of the children.
TOC is independently gathering more facts on this case. We will bring our readers more information soon.
You may support the petition to ‘Help baby Mohamed Isaac and his foster family HERE.