Although both Mr George Chan and his wife, Madam Anne Lau, spend their careers and personal lives working with children, they felt they could do more.
Mr Chan, 61, is an education support officer in a school for children with autism. Madam Lau, 58, is a supervisor at a childcare centre.
The couple also volunteer at their church, helping children with special needs. They have an adopted daughter, 23, who is a nurse.
Madam Lau came to know about the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Fostering Scheme through an acquaintance.
In 2015, she saw an advertisement for the scheme and her daughter urged her to sign up. The timing felt right as the couple had fewer responsibilities at the time.
They became foster parents to Apple (not her real name), now six years old, in 2016 - a few years after the death of Mr Chan's mother, who had been bedridden and in their care for about 18 years.
Madam Lau says being foster parents allows them to make a different impact on someone's life, compared with working at a childcare centre.
She says: "With fostering, you can help a child who needs a place that is safe and has warmth. If we can offer that, why not? Fostering is also different from adoption. (Eventually) reintegrating foster children with their families is meaningful."
She told the ministry she wanted to foster a child of nursery age because she found kids of that age "easy to manage" as she had been in the childcare sector for more than 20 years.
Initially, the couple did not know that Apple had special needs. About six months after she came to them at age four, she started exhibiting unusual behaviour.
She wanted to eat only "curly" or instant noodles. She insisted that her meals be served cold as having to wait for food to cool down frustrated her. Although she was intelligent, she did not know how to play or interact with her peers, says Madam Lau.
She was eventually diagnosed with global developmental delay, a condition that results in significant delays in a child's development.
The couple's experience in working with children helped them face the challenges of caring for Apple.
Faced with her tantrums and reluctance to cooperate when it came to basic routines, such as getting out of bed and going to the toilet, Mr Chan put his training in working with special-needs children into practice. This included repeatedly encouraging her to behave and rewarding her for tasks performed well - though this was eventually phased out.
Despite the challenges, Madam Lau was determined to persist because she felt changing caregivers would not be good for a child.
Thanks to their efforts, Apple now throws fewer tantrums and seems better able to manage her emotions and frustrations, says Mr Chan.
Madam Lau adds: "The reward is seeing her improve."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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