A VOLUNTARY agency spearheading the emergency foster care service has asked the Government for funds, expecting demand for the programme to grow. The Hong Kong Family Welfare Society (HKFWS) introduced the service last May and since then 17 children have been placed in the care of foster parents, who receive them at short notice. The social worker in charge of the programme, Sandy Kwong Sau-hung, said the response was encouraging and 50 applications to foster had been received, from which the 17 were chosen. Ms Kwong said the agency would like to expand the service, but the main problem was inadequate resources - especially staff. Sponsorship and resources from the society itself could only cater for up to four children every day, she said. ''A full-time social worker can usually look after 20 children in need of normal care, but only eight under the emergency programme, as he has to closely monitor the adjustment of the children in the new family. ''We hope the Government will be able to allocate more resources to us in the future so we don't have to depend on sponsorship.'' A Social Welfare Department spokesman said the Government was working closely with the HKFWS on the service, which was set up as a pilot scheme by the agency. She said that as the service was in its experimental phase, its effectiveness and the demand still needed to be assessed. ''Further governmental involvement and possible expansion of the service can only be considered at a later stage,'' she said. Ms Kwong said there had been a need for the emergency service since the 1980s, but this had only surfaced recently because families were now more aware of the children's welfare. The demand had further increased as more nuclear and single-parent families sprang up, she added. The service could help to provide family care at short notice to children whose parent could not take care of them within their own families because of an emergency or crisis, such as sudden illness, hospitalisation or desertion. Among the 17 couples who have joined the service are Patrick Yau Chi-tak, a container operation controller, and his wife Chan Yin-yuk. As well as their 22-month-old son, they care for an eight-year-old girl who was left unattended because her mother was not emotionally fit to look after her. This is the second time a child has been placed in their care. The first was a 10-year-old girl who stayed for two months. ''We don't find any trouble taking care of an additional child, but we do find much happiness and satisfaction in it,'' Mr Yau said.