Fostering hope: one mum's story of fostering 3 babies
We can learn so much about generosity, kindness and love from foster parents. A simple, but profound gesture of theirs, by opening their home and heart to give a child a chance to thrive in a safe, secure and loving environment.
What does fostering a child mean? In its simplistic terms, fostering is a way of providing a stable and safe family life for children who are unable to live with their biological parents at a point in time. The goal is to care for a child until they are safely placed in a permanent family situation – either reunited with their birth parents, adopted into a family, or placed with closed relatives.
Every child is unique and every foster parent is different. Their journeys together are one-of-a-kind, their stories weaved together – and each story has its moments of joy and challenges. One common theme does transcend, and that is the love and growth of both foster children and their foster parents. After all, having someone, even as young as a new born baby come into your lives, with their own unique needs and dreams, will definitely bring about a dynamic change to the family.
I had the opportunity to meet with Eileen to hear about her heart-warming story in fostering babies since 2019! If you’re curious about what it really means to be a foster parent — the behind-the-scenes stories that you might not have heard before — read on to hear about Eileen’s story.
Hi Eileen, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. My father was a civil servant while my mother stayed at home to care for my elder brother and I, and later my younger sister. Having spent a couple of years in the UK in primary school, I joined the international school system upon returning to Hong Kong. I am passionate about the Go Green movement, and make daily efforts to live a low waste life. I am also proud to say that I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years. Currently I am a happily married mother of one, and we became a foster family at the beginning of 2019, when we fostered our first baby boy.
What made you decide to become a foster parent?
Growing up in Hong Kong, I had always been told how lucky we were to be raised in a safe and stable society, and the fact that there were people around the world who were less fortunate than us, including orphaned children who did not have a family. Thus from a young age I had wanted to be able to help those children in need. I suppose it was this, paired with the praiseworthy culture of ESF students’ active involvement in volunteer work for various charities, that got me interested in fostering later on in life. Upon entering the workforce, I continued to participate in volunteer work in my spare time.
However, after giving birth to my son, Gabriel, my husband and I both agreed that, while raising our son was a shared responsibility, it was best to have one of us dedicate ourself as a stay-at-home parent, and in our case it was Mummy. With this new arrangement, becoming a foster parent ticks all the boxes – it allows me to bring my volunteer work home, where I can be physically available for my son, while at the same time I can care for another child in need.
What has been the most enjoyable and life giving part of being a foster parent?
Where to begin! Needless to say, being able to provide for a child and witness their growth and milestones are most enjoyable and rewarding. Every little smile is a reminder of how precious life is, and how much love this tiny little individual has to give! I still remember the first time I laid eyes on my first foster child – a 2-month old baby boy, all bundled up and fast asleep - and how it felt like love at first sight! Caring for children just feels so right, so fulfilling and so natural. It confirms to me that this is what I am meant to do, and that I am on the right path in my life.
It may sound dramatic but, for me, being able to foster a child is a dream come true. Multiple dreams, in fact, and one of them is to be able to give Gabriel the chance to experience life with a sibling so that he can learn to love, care for and share with another child, as well as to become aware of and be grateful for all that he has. There is a famous saying in Chinese, “those who give are more fortunate than those who receive”. We are indeed truly blessed.
What has been some of the challenges you have faced as a foster parent?
I would say the challenges are the ones you would expect.
First, there is the physical challenge. I am not getting any younger, and since we chose to foster new-borns and infants, waking up for night feeds and managing colic does take its toll on my health.
Secondly, it has not been easy to ensure that my son’s care was not compromised, because when there is in fact a second child at home who requires my attention, it is not just simply a matter of prioritizing. Thus managing my son’s emotions has been a learning curve.
This is also related to my third and perhaps greatest challenge, which is the goodbyes. The children whom we foster were all destined to leave us to be united with their forever family, and even though we knew that from the beginning, it was still tough to let go after living as a family for so long. It was especially hard when I felt that the child had become so attached that he/she didn’t want to let go either. For someone like myself, who was lucky enough not to have experienced much grief in my life, I have had to go through all five stages of grief after saying goodbye to my first foster child. Though I am happy to say that, yes, I am able to look back and laugh about it now!
Can you share with us more details about the foster program you are with right now?
We applied through “Project Bridge”, which was a foster program founded and managed by Mother’s Choice. They are very experienced and organised, and their staff is very friendly and caring. They continue to give us a lot of support throughout our fostering journey, and I feel proud to be a part of the family!
What impact do you hope to leave on the children that you foster?
Put quite simply, I hope that I have given them the love and care that they needed, and that they are healthy and content as a child should be. To be honest, the infants we foster usually leave us before their first birthday, and they will not remember ever having met us!
It takes a village to raise a child. As the name of Mother’s Choice’s foster program reveals, foster families are just part of a “bridge” that connects the child to their forever family. Our role is to make sure they are loved, and I like to think that this will stay with them forever.
What advice would you give to individuals considering fostering?
Obviously, it is important to ensure that everyone in the family is on board, and have been briefed regarding the worst case scenarios. Raising a child brings great joy, but it is no walk in the park. I would not have done it without the support of my husband, my son, my parents, and indeed my lovely helper, who is equally fond of children as we are and has been willing to step in when the rest of us needed a break!
As mentioned regarding the goodbyes, it is hard. As a fellow foster mom puts it quite aptly, it is like losing a child. But it is important not to focus on the sorrow. We have to remind ourselves that it is not about us. It is about the child. And if both you and the child are sad to let go, then you know that you have done your job well.
Foster parenting may be the most challenging job, but it can be the most rewarding one as well. It represents the best of the human spirit and foster parents are really selfless in ways that can be hard to imagine.
If you would like to get in touch with Eileen if you have any questions or would like to have a chat, please reach out to her on Instagram: @eileen.veggiemama
We would love to share stories about mothers and babies, if you have an interesting story or would like to bring more awareness about a cause to help mothers and children, feel free to reach out to us over email: firstname.lastname@example.org.