'They need a home and I'm in love with them'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 May, 2011, 12:00am


A decade of foster care has added two members to the family of Kathryn Lee. The 43-year-old has cared for 15 children since she started fostering 11 years ago and adopted two children.

'They need a home and I'm in love with them,' said Lee of the girl and boy she adopted at the ages of two and six. She also has three children of her own.

'It's so important for children to have family, even temporarily,' she said.

Lee, a former nurse who has fostered children in Hong Kong and Australia, grew up with two foster children placed in her parents' care.

Her mother was principal of a school for children with special needs, and many of the children Lee has fostered also had special needs. Now she is taking care of a three-month old baby, Hannah, until she is ready for adoption.

Lee started fostering her adopted daughter, who has had two brain operations, when the child was four months old. Her adopted son came into the household at the age of seven months.

Among the special-needs children she has fostered was one with Down's syndrome.

'They always have extra challenges. I would like to help them with that,' she said.

Local mother Shirley Cheng said the biggest hurdle in fostering was getting started. She has cared for her two foster children, 'Mun Mun' and 'Ching Ching', for seven years and two years respectively.

'I treat them like my birth daughters ... it's just a bit different in the beginning. Unlike children I gave birth to whom I know all my life, I need time to get to know their personalities,' Cheng said. 'Mun Mun' was four years old when Cheng started taking care of her, and the girl had such a fierce temper that she drew curious looks on the street.

'She scolded and kicked me in the supermarket when I refused to buy her something,' Cheng said.

Instead of scolding the child, Cheng tried to reason with her when the two returned home.

'I told her such tantrums would not make me buy her things that are unnecessary,' she said.

Much reasoning was also necessary for 'Ching Ching', who was eight when she started living with Cheng. 'I asked her to dictate some English words every day, and she told me there was no such practice with her parents,' she said.

Apart from gaining the trust of the children, it is also necessary to help them maintain close ties with their birth parents.

'I ask them to call their parents ... I'd love to see a reunion. I'd miss them a lot, though,' she said.