updated 21 Nov 2012, 17:16
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Wed, Nov 14, 2012
The Straits Times
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Couple give love and then have to let go
by Eve Yap

Polytechnic lecturer Alexander Schlag does not know when he will get to care for his next foster child. But when the child arrives, the first thing Mr Schlag will do is take him to Ikea and get a bed of the right size.

The first two foster children, aged five and three, came to the 52-year-old and his graphic designer wife Eve Lim, 39, in August in an emergency.

The couple had time to buy only two mattresses and childcare items such as water bottles, and asked friends to donate stuffed toys, books and Lego bricks.

Singapore permanent residents since 2009, Mr Schlag is originally from Switzerland and Ms Lim from Malaysia. Married for two years, they have no children. Home is a three-room flat in Hougang.

Mr Schlag says his age makes it a challenge for the couple to have their own kids. Providing a safe harbour for children in need of care is the next best thing.

Besides, fostering is common in Switzerland, says the German Swiss, noting a "kampung spirit" in his village Bleiken where "neighbours pitch in to look after a child" in emergencies.

One of the key issues the couple discussed was how to "give unconditional love and then let go". But in the end, "we felt that given our age, we'll be equipped to handle the emotions" of fostering.

Mr Schlag and Ms Lim's two foster children were with them for just five weeks. A ministry official told the couple they would have to part ways early last month, giving them about a week's notice.

By then, the foursome were used to making simple dinners such as toast and peanut butter and enjoying weekend football sessions at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with kids of the couple's friends.

Says Mr Schlag: "We talked to the children and tried to make their separation from us, and being reunited with their mother, a happy event."

As part of a "closure" routine, they took the boys to say goodbye to everyone from the neighbourhood store "aunty" to the monitor lizard they see along the way to the Punggol Park, where they walk on Saturday mornings.

"We are still a bit sad and miss them," says Ms Lim. However, Mr Schlag adds: "But no one cried. We are troupers."

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