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Tue, Jun 22, 2010
The Straits Times
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A father to not just his own children
by Ang Yiying

PART-TIME taxi driver Lim Yook Gweek, 61, has four children aged 27 to 34.

But he and his wife Cho Kheng Huay, 54, have never outgrown their love of the sound of the patter of little feet around their home.

Actually, they have never needed to outgrow it, for, beside that made by their four children and four grandchildren, they have heard it made by the 14 other children to whom they have played foster parents over the years.

Mr Lim and his wife got into the fostering scheme under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in 2002.

Now, eight years later, they are among MCYS' 191 pairs of registered foster parents matched to children who have been abandoned, neglected or ill treated, or whose family members are too ill to look after them.

The youngest child they have taken in was only a few months old, and the oldest, 13.

The children usually stay a year or two before returning to their families. Some are adopted by other families.

Mr Lim said in Mandarin: 'These children are so innocent. Most of their parents love them, but maybe they have the wrong parenting techniques.'

He recalled once taking care of a seven-year-old girl who misbehaved because she missed her own home badly. Once, she stuffed a roll of toilet paper down the toilet bowl. Another time, she tried - unsuccessfully - to run away.

He said: 'We had to do our best to comfort her. We knew she was thinking of her family.'

The girl went on to stay with them for almost two years and then returned to her relatives.

Mr Lim's duties as foster father have run the gamut from cleaning up after a three-year-old who had pooped on the floor to playing chauffeur and sitting in on contact meetings with the biological parents of his foster children.

His home is clearly child-friendly. In the 1,700 sq ft jumbo flat in Tampines, 120 sq ft has been carved out for a play area. The space is decorated with decals and filled with children's furniture and toys.

His eldest daughter Joyce, 34, a principal of a childcare centre, described her father as fair, one who shows no bias when it comes to doling out love to his grandchildren and his foster children.

This trait has rubbed off on Mr Lim's own grown-up children, who take the whole gang on outings, and ensure the foster children have a share in presents as well.

When The Straits Times called at the Lims' home yesterday, their foster daughter and son, aged six and five respectively, were playing with the couple's grandchildren.

Later, they got busy rolling out cookie dough to be baked as a Father's Day gift for Mr Lim.

The girl, the Lims' longest-staying foster child, has been with the couple since she was six months old. Treated like their youngest daughter, she had been taken on holidays with them to places like China, Bali, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The shy girl could not be prodded to say much, but was more effusive in writing. A Father's Day card she made for Mr Lim with the help of the family's maid read, in imperfect English beside colour- pencilled hearts:

'Thank you for taking good care of me when im a baby and support me. Thanks for the kindness and be a patient with me because sometimes im naughty but sorry for that. I LOVE YOU.'

Mr Lim said when a foster child leaves to rejoin his family, he and his wife usually take a holiday to dull the ache of the parting.

But he added: 'If they are adopted, I'm happy for them because it means they'll have a good family and better lives. If they return home, I'm also happy for them.'

For information on MCYS' fostering scheme, visit the website

[email protected]


This article was first published in The Straits TImes.

readers' comments
My deepest respect to Mr. Lim family.
Posted by robinmbox on Thu, 24 Jun 2010 at 11:38 AM

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