A major education campaign was called for yesterday to bring together parents wanting foster children and children unable to find homes because they are mentally or physically disabled.
The Hong Kong Family Welfare Society said some children urgently requiring foster care were on waiting lists with little hope of being placed because of the stigma surrounding their disabilities.
The welfare agency has been placing needy children in foster care for the past 14 years. They came from families whose parents have died, are ill or are too busy to look after them.
Principal social worker Wan Sow-han said the society offered about 160 foster care places but only 70 per cent were filled.
'We have families who are willing to accept foster children, but not children who need special care. Some children who are ill or mildly mentally retarded are rejected,' she said.
'The age and sex of children also affect their chances of being placed. Families reject boys of an older age more often. They fear the boys will be naughty.' Ms Wan said there were about 600 government-subsidised foster care places operated by various welfare groups. Twenty to 30 children were on waiting lists because they were ill or disabled.
'We recently received two children who are mentally retarded and one who has a hearing problem. We have yet to find foster families for them,' she said.
A foster family receives about $4,000 a month to look after a child. An extra allowance will be given to families who take mentally ill children but there is a quota of 12 families a year.
Housewife Shek Ho Siu-ying has been a foster parent for eight years and is now looking after a four-year-old girl.
Mrs Ho, a mother of two, said: 'This is the eighth foster child I have looked after. I am pleased I can help them. Some are so close to me that they call me mum.' Society director Thomas Mulvey said: 'We hope more families will apply to be foster parents to give children in need a loving and caring family home.'