Sarah Anbu: Every Child Deserves A Loving Upbringing

Sarah Anbu is a typical 26-year-old primary school teacher at Pine Hills International School teaching Malay language and humanities. Her passion is working with kids and helping them grow up in a safe environment at school. She believes that every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment. But little do people around her know of her atypical childhood. It may surprise you that she was once a resident of a home for abused and neglected children. Her special childhood may play a part in the person she is today. Holding the values and responsibilities she has gained since then.

Sarah at her school in the classroom.
Sarah, a confident school teacher in her elements, advocates a safe childhood.
Image by Sarah Anbu

Meet Sarah Anbu

Raised by a single mother, Sarah and her little brother stayed together for three years. Without the means to raise two kids on her own, her mother left them at Rumah KIDS, a home for abused, orphaned and abandoned children. And since then Sarah said that God’s will unfolded for her one by one. She never knew her father as her mother had always kept him out of the picture. When she started residing in the home, the caretakers of the home said that she was active and playful. Ever since she was a young girl, she is able to adapt quickly in social situations.

Despite the love from the caretakers, volunteers, and other kids in the home, the feeling of rejection was inevitable. Every child will face their own challenges until they arrive at a stage in their life where they are at peace. This is Sarah’s story on how she discovered the path to her own acceptance and happiness amidst her bumpy childhood.

How Fate Intervened An Otherwise Tragic Story

Sarah briefly stayed at the home for less than a year, unlike other kids in the same home. She met her foster father, Anbagalan A/L Krishnan, fondly known to others as Anbu. He was part of the home staff. When they first met, Sarah was only three years old. She called Anbu ‘Appa’ (“dad” in Tamil) marking the beginning of their story.

Sarah when she was a young girl.
Sarah’s commemoration photo for graduating pre-school at Tadika Ria when she was six years old.
Image by Sarah Anbu

Sarah began joining the Anbu family with her foster mother, Rajamma Rose Ghanamoney for the Christmas holidays soon after. As they spent more time together, they felt chemistry as if they belonged to each other. Anbu finally decided to foster Sarah. Unlike the other kids Anbu cared for, he felt a spark with how she interacted with his family. The time Sarah spent with the family had created an unbreakable bond they have created over time. Eventually, Sarah’s birth mother and foster parents mutually agreed for the Anbus to foster her. Sarah was fostered at age three. A year later, she was permanently adopted by the Anbus.

Fostering Sarah

The home she was in gave her everything she needed but not what she wanted. Fostering gave her a jumpstart in life that the others in the home may not have the privilege to enjoy. She felt the home was unable to give genuine intimacy. With her foster family, great opportunities were given to her. Education, healthcare, and a place to call home she is grateful for. Every small gesture brought more happiness to Sarah. She felt genuine care and intimacy in every area. This reminds me of the saying, ‘don’t take anything for granted’.

Sarah and her foster family posing and smiling.
Sarah’s foster family was her guiding light that helped mould her into who she is today. From left to right: Sarah’s foster father, Anbu, her foster brother, Yishaq Anbu, her foster mother, Rajamma Rose and Sarah.
Image by Sarah Anbu

“In a family, I can achieve anything. In a home, it’s different.”

Sarah anbu

Fostering Helped Sarah With Acceptance

Whilst raised in a loving environment, her foster family encouraged Sarah to keep in touch with her birth mother. Her foster family never hid the fact that she was fostered. However, she expressed that she felt betrayed and hurt for how her mother abandoned her. She felt confused as to why her mother took her biological little brother home to raise and not her. As she grew up, she realised that her mother had her reasons why she couldn’t raise her. Her birth mother wanted her to have a chance to a better life. In the end, the transparency taught her to respect her mum and foster parents. Also, to bond herself with both families.

Sarah with her birth mother at her 25th birthday party.
Sarah and her birth mother, Punitha occasionally meet up to maintain their relationship. Here, they are celebrating Sarah’s 25th birthday party.
Image by Sarah Anbu

“Broken families produce broken children.”

Sarah anbu

Just being a child outside the society’s view of normal family dynamics can be a stigma itself. The label of a centre kid adds to this stigma. This leads to children feeling rejected and excluded. Sarah believes the kids will learn to heal and grow if they are in a family to begin accepting themselves. Through fostering, it gives them an option to lead a life as good as they possibly can.

Bringing Awareness Is As Important As Fostering

There may be confusion between fostering and adoption. An easy way to remember is adoption is forever. Foster care aims to reunite kids with their birth parents where possible. Fostering is usually a temporary commitment to raise the child in a happy and stable environment. Adoption is legally bringing the child into the family, with all the rights their biological child would have. Almost all these kids come from a home where they stay temporarily. They are cared for until they are ready to go back to their families. If that’s not possible, then until they are old enough to live their lives on their own.

Sarah's foster family smiling together on the couch.
Sarah’s foster family saved her from an otherwise bleak future common to all rescued children. Foster mother, Rajamma Rose Ghanamoney (left), her foster father Anbagalan A/L Krishnan (middle), and her brother Yishaq Anbu (right).
Image by Sarah Anbu

Unlike the United States, Malaysia doesn’t have an institutionalised fostering system. Instead, we have a common home for all orphaned, rescued, abandoned, or neglected children. Malaysia has around 64,000 children in child care institutions with one common root problem: poverty. Poverty is the main reason why children end up neglected and abandoned. 90% of children in orphanages actually have at least one living parent. In contrast, the United States has a government run, comprehensive fostering system.

Which Is Better, Home Or Foster?

A simple answer is, neither is better than the other. They are just different. But when it comes to the children themselves, it’s always better to grow up in a loving family environment. Rather than in a home where love is shared with tens, if not hundreds of other kids. Most people are unclear about the foster care situation in Malaysia. The government has not publicised enough information to the public despite the large number of kids requiring attention. Many organisations are trying to bring awareness to the option of foster care in Malaysia. However, the government must implement a proper system. This will ease the process for potential foster parents.

A couple applying to foster a child into their family.
If information on foster care is more accessible, it will encourage more potential couples to foster a child. This will inevitably help to ease the already overloaded child care institutions.
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

An effective system would start from the registration process for families who want to foster with welfare officers. Foster parents require lots of preparation. They need to familiarise themselves with handling a traumatised child. To prepare for the day to possibly reunite the foster child with his/her birth family. Whilst it’s preferable to place the children in foster care, there should always be a safety net. A home is one example of this protection. There will be kids who won’t adapt well to their families. In such situations, at least the home will be the safety net to catch them if they slip through the cracks.

Rumah KIDS Bringing Awareness To Fostering

Sarah stayed at Rumah KIDS, which stands for Persatuan Rumah Kanak-Kanak Ini Disayangi (Literal translation in Malay for ‘children of this home/house is loved’). They are still actively caring for kids in helpless situations today. They have two branches in Selangor located in Subang Jaya and Klang. Family reunification is their priority, however, they also want to encourage the beneficial effects fostering can bring to a child. They are cautiously confident of promoting foster care. By placing more children in loving families, at the same time, it is lightening the load for the homes. This allows caretakers to accord better quality care for the smaller number of those who remain in the homes.

A portrait photo of Panir Paul Rajamany.
Panir Paul Rajamany is the Chairman and champion of Rumah KIDS since 2020.
Image from Panir Paul Rajamany

“There should be proper foster care system in Malaysia. It should at least include registration, briefing, training, verification, and welfare officers for potential foster couples.”

Panir Paul Rajamany, Chairman of rumah kids

It’s not common to hear about foster families’ and children’s stories in Malaysia. There are some kids who end up raising themselves, and to take control of their own happiness like Hibby Cheong. Sarah sets the precedence to encourage fostering without families of their own. All children deserve to grow up in loving family environments.

Are You Interested To Foster A Child?

Interested couples willing to foster in Malaysia lack information and clarity in regards to the process of fostering a child. Panir from Rumah KIDS is actually well-versed in the Malaysian foster care system. People cannot just show up in an orphanage or home to request a child to foster. Despite the long history of abandoned, neglected, and rescued children, the concept of foster care is still new to Malaysia. Foster care is processed through the government and it’s important to remember that you do not pick a child. Couples are able to submit a preference of whom they’d like to foster. However, no selection will help match families up better than pure chemistry between a potential foster parent and child.

Two parents hugging a toddler and smiling.
All that matters is giving every child a chance to be a part of a happy family like this one.
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

Legally, when fostering a child, foster parents are assigned the child’s custody, welfare and supervision. Foster parents may lose their foster child as he/she can leave without any complicated legal implications. He/she might grow up and try to live on his/her own. But he/she might also end up reuniting with his/her birth family.

Sarah’s Success Story

Sarah is a rare example of a success story in foster care. Many more abandoned children should also enjoy what Sarah enjoyed. A loving foster family environment and a healthy relationship with biological parent. Spreading awareness is one way to bring about development in foster care. Before reading this article, did you know anything about the state of foster care in Malaysia? In 2020, up to 6,400 kids in Malaysia have become vulnerable requiring care and protection. Children need to be in a safe home before the age of three. By then, their trauma is irreversible. We should not only focus on supporting homes like Rumah KIDS. Instead, family integration through fostering should be more emphasised rather than keeping kids in homes.

“I have experienced both living in a home and with a foster family. I want to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself with my own child.”

Sarah anbu
Sarah is exemplary for how rescued children should be treated around the world.
Image from Sarah Anbu

Put yourself in their shoes. These kids are waiting for a hand to pull them out of the darkness in order for them to thrive. If you were in their shoes, would you prefer staying in a home, being fostered or adopted? Or would you like to go back to living with your biological family if there was an opportunity? Let me know what you would do if you were in their situation in the comment section below. Honestly, these kids don’t get much of a choice because they are too young to make any proper decisions. More people should step up and help them through these confusing times as your help may save a life. If you wish to get to know more about foster care in Malaysia, you can contact Panir.

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About Dina GHAZALI

Raised abroad almost her entire life, Dina is well exposed to the multi-cultural world around her. Penned her innermost thoughts on paper as a child, and eventually fell in love with writing. Aims to be a successful writer one day.

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