While most parents do not get to choose their children, the Lims could have done so before adopting each of their four children.
But they chose not to choose. They told the agent: Let us adopt any baby who needs a home.
“We couldn’t bear the thought of any child being abandoned a second time just because we chose someone else, let alone decide between two beautiful babies whose existence wasn’t even their choice,” said Mr Dickson Lim, 49, director of individual philanthropy services for Asia-Pacific at BNP Paribas Wealth Management.
His wife Allison Chong, 43, an educator, had gone through eight cycles of fertility treatment before the couple decided to adopt.
The adoption agent, who has been in the business for more than three decades, told them that he had never met parents like them.
Many first-time parents tend to select children who look like them, to minimise questions about their origin. Others would check that the babies do not have any abnormalities or severe medical conditions.
Some would even check the educational qualifications of the birth parents to ensure a higher chance that the child would turn out to be smart.
Almost all would have a look at the baby’s photo before seeing the infant in person and take a few days to make the decision.
This is the usual practice, as adoption is for life and it costs about $30,000 to adopt a child. But the Lims see the children as a gift and were simply prepared to accept them.
In 2009 when the agent called to say a female baby from a poor family had been put up for adoption, the Lims, who are Christians, arranged to go to the agency’s office that weekend without first seeing her photo.
Mrs Lim wept when she first saw the 53-day-old baby whom the couple named Dawn to signify hope.
A year later, the couple called the agent again as they wanted Dawn to have a playmate. This time, the agent already knew no prior photos or viewing were needed.
Two years later, in 2012, the Lims decided to adopt a baby boy. The 14-day-old, the fourth child of an unwed couple, had such a bad eczema flare-up that he smelt bad when they received him.
In 2014, the Lims adopted their fourth child, so that Daryl has a male playmate.
The agent sent them a photo of the boy as he had a huge lump at his navel.
They were told that he was given away by his young, single mother and probably “left on the shelf” for 77 days due to the lump, which they learnt later was umbilical hernia (protruding intestines).
Fortunately, the boy, Alan, healed from the condition within a year. But he was later found to be unable to recognise letters and numbers, and may also have dyslexia.
Today, Dawn is nine; Amanda, eight; Daryl, six; and Alan, four. They attend student care and childcare in the afternoon, while their parents and their domestic helper take care of them at night. All go to regular preschools and schools.
Despite three of their four children turning out to have special needs, the Lims have no regrets.
Said Mr Lim: “Just like how God loves us unconditionally, our love for them cannot be conditional on who they are now because we simply don’t know what other ‘surprises’, medical or otherwise, await us.”
WHAT YOU MUST KNOW IF YOU WANT TO ADOPT A CHILD
If you are part of a prospective family looking to adopt, here are some things to take note of:
Who can adopt a child?
Under Singapore’s Adoption of Child Act, both married couples and singles can adopt a child. However, a single male is not allowed to adopt a girl unless special circumstances exist.
They must be Singaporean citizens or permanent residents, or hold passes which the Family Justice Courts deem fit to qualify them as residents in Singapore.
Prospective adopters must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child, among other things. An exception may be granted if the adopter is related to the child by blood.
They also should not be older than the child by more than 50 years.
Who can couples turn to if they wish to adopt a child?
According to the Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF), a couple can look for a child to adopt through their relatives, friends or other parties.
The child has to be transferred in a proper manner that does not violate the laws of any country, and signed consent from the child’s birth parents must be obtained.
Alternatively, they can adopt a child under State care. They are, however, required to complete a home study before they are allowed to identify a child from the MSF for adoption.
Who can be adopted?
The child must be below 21 years old. He or she must also be a resident of Singapore – either a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. A child residing in Singapore on a visit, student’s or special pass does not qualify.
Can local couples adopt a foreign-born child?
Yes, but they must meet the requirements set by the authorities.
All couples adopting a foreign-born child must complete a home study – which costs about $1,500 – that assesses their eligibility and readiness.
Adoption agencies told The Straits Times that a home study report can take months to complete as it involves lengthy interviews with a social worker who will ask detailed questions, such as the couple’s childhood and their attitudes to parenting.
There are currently six MSF-accredited agencies that are allowed to conduct home study reports.
Once a couple successfully completes a home study report, they must apply for a Dependent’s Pass for a child to remain in Singapore until the adoption is finalised.
An application for a Dependent’s Pass, which is valid for nine months, is typically processed within two weeks.
Which foreign countries do couples here usually adopt a child from?
The bulk of foreign adopted babies used to come from Malaysia and Indonesia.
But there has been a growing trend of people turning to online forums to look for babies to adopt as there are fewer babies from these countries up for adoption.
China also used to be a main source of babies for adoption, but numbers fell sharply after an agreement between the Singaporean and Chinese governments to bar agents from finding Chinese babies, so as to prevent illegal cash-for-baby transactions.
How long does it take to process an adoption application?
In general, it takes between five and seven months from application to approval from the Court, according to information on the MSF website.
This could take longer when adopting a foreign child as it involves a home study report and application for a Dependent’s Pass.
What are the costs involved?
It is illegal to pay the birth parents for giving up their child for adoption, although adopting couples can reimburse them for pre-natal and post-natal expenses, including hospital delivery bills.
If a couple goes through an adoption agent to look for a child, they can incur fees of between $25,000 and $35,000, The Straits Times reported in November 2015.
A detailed breakdown of all financial transactions, including agent fees and reimbursement to parents, must be provided to the Court.
What are some other things couples should note?
The MSF website lists up to 15 steps needed to adopt a child, depending on whether he or she is local or foreign-born.
The couple must first attend a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing (a one-off session lasting 2.5 hours) conducted by a MSF-accredited agency, followed by a home study if the child is foreign-born.
After identifying a suitable child, they must then obtain signed consent from the birth parents, as well as the child’s identification documents, before applying for a Dependent’s Pass (for a foreign-born child).
Only then can an application be submitted to the Family Justice Courts, culminating in a hearing to determine if the adoption application is successful.
How have adoption numbers changed over the years?
In 2014, 352 children were adopted, a sharp plunge from 731 a decade ago, MSF figures showed. The fall has been attributed to fewer unwanted babies and restrictions on adopting babies from China.
About six in 10 children adopted between 2009 and 2014 were born overseas, mainly in neighbouring countries.
Lim family photo: ST; other photos: 123RF.com amd Pixabay