PETALING JAYA: When Nizha (not her real name) was assigned to live with foster parents after spending most of her 18 years at welfare department homes, she thought that her life would change for the better.
However, she found it had become worse as she spent two years being abused and treated like a slave by the couple, who were both medical doctors.
“Living with my foster family after coming out of the welfare home turned out to be more painful than being thrown out by my original family when I was young,” she said.
She said the abuse she received, together with the fact that she did not even have a identity card (IC) or permanent resident status although she was born in Malaysia, almost drove her to suicide.
She was given to the foster family in 2008.
Throughout the next two years, she said, they treated her with disdain, forcing her to do menial chores and barring her from leaving the house.
Her plight has raised questions about how the department selects foster families for underprivileged children, and whether it executes the responsibility of ensuring that those under its care are monitored after they leave the government homes.
“I used to climb on top of the house with the intention to kill myself because of the immense pressure and torment,” Nizha told a press conference, recalling what she was subjected to by the husband and wife whom she claimed worked as an eye specialist and cardiologist.
Also present was Malaysian Welfare and Social Organisation (Perbak) president Muhammad Khairul Hafiz Abdullah, who said the department should not abandon its obligation to check on those who had been under its care.
“I hope the department ensures that such a case does not happen again,” he said.
“There may be many other children given away to foster families who have been abused.”
Nizha, who previously lived in welfare homes in Arau, Kuantan, and Cheras, said she was disappointed with the welfare department for neglecting to visit her or enquire about her condition after assigning her to a foster family.
“The department never once came to see me the entire time I lived with the couple. If they had, I would have complained about the abuse I was facing,” she said.
“The last time I met the department people was when they transferred me to the couple.”
She said she had endured many insults and curses over her years with the couple.
“Even when I ate, they told me not to eat a lot. When I did the housework, they would get angry, saying I was not doing a good job.
“Every day, I woke up at 3 or 4 in the morning to wash the car, clean the dogs’ excrement and feed the dogs,” she said.
“At first I thought I should run away. But I could not because I did not have an IC and my birth certificate was held by the couple.”
She said they had also threatened to cut her hair after she repeatedly pleaded to be freed from their house.
They also kept reminding her that they were feeding her and giving her clothes to wear, she said.
“I told them I wanted to return to the welfare home and that if they abused me further, I would lodge a police report.
“But they said no one would believe me because I did not have an IC. They said I would not find any work and would become a prostitute.
“They accused me of beating their children when I used to care for them and even helped with their toilet needs.”
Nizha said the couple eventually let her go and dropped her somewhere near Pudu with RM2,000 as payment for the two years’ work.
Until today, she said, she does not possess an IC. She said she hoped the government would officially recognise her as a citizen so that she could finally live a normal life.
Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there had been 543,363 children born in the country from 2006 until June 30 this year who were assigned “invalid status” by the government.
The status is given to children from marriages that do not comply with regulations, Muslims born out of wedlock, and children whose parents’ identities are unknown.