At the end of a major campaign to increase the pool of foster care parents in Bermuda, 11 persons have expressed an interest in fostering children removed from their homes in emergency cases.
As first reported by Bermuda Real in November 2017, the pool of resources had reached a critical low. Since then the situation has changed for the better.
According to Foster Care Coordinator at the Department of Child and Family Services, Selena Simons, two people have completed the process and have children with them. Another couple, who are expats on work permits, are going through the approval process to provide foster care in emergency situations involving infants and toddlers.
“We have noticed since early 2017, that a small number of people (either blood-related or by association) are keeping their eyes on situations where family dynamics may be deteriorating,” said Ms Simons.
“They are not reporting these families to get them in trouble, rather they are coming forward to let us know that if a placement is needed, they will step up and take the children. This is very helpful.”
Finding a suitable home for children removed from their homes in emergency situations is no easy task. Any potential foster care parent must go through a specific process to qualify, which begins with a criminal background check.
Deciding to become a foster parent takes a high degree of commitment because there’s a fairly rigorous process to go through to qualify. And Ms Simons noted that potential candidates should ask themselves a host of genuine questions, which include:
- Can you be a child’s advocate?
- Can you be their voice?
- Can you show them how to blend within the rhythm of your own family life – even though they are going through a crisis?
- As a mature adult, are you willing to attend training seminars?
- Are you willing to use online resources to better equip you with tools to do this remarkable job?
“The screening process can take up to six weeks; it involves police background checks, home visits by the Department of Health, interviews with your children if you have any, and character references.
“There’s medical checks, internal department checks with three solid character references and a home study programme. But you don’t have to have children to be a foster parent,” she said.
“Single women can apply as well. All the men involved are married, but we do have one single man who took in his grandchild as an infant. You can also be a senior citizen – perhaps one in early retirement. People with nursing backgrounds in behavioral therapy are also an asset, especially for children with special needs.”
Children with physical disabilities account for only 15 percent of those in foster care but there are also children with emotional and behavioral problems.
In the case of contract workers who may be interested in becoming a foster parent while working in Bermuda, she said: “We had a good relationship earlier this year with a couple, who were both contract workers here for about three years. They specified that they would like to be involved with either an infant or a toddler, for an emergency short term situation. And they were very creative; they got all of their friends involved, who donated essential child care items and they all worked together to help this child.”
Faced with the ongoing challenges of finding homes for children whose lives are disrupted through no fault of their own, Ms Simons said the Foster Care team’s line of work is not for the weak at heart.
“You have to be cut out for this type of work, be nurturing, be a champion for children,” she said.
“You’ve got to have a level of strength and our pool of foster care parents are just that. Having a delicate side is a no go. You’re not coming into foster care to deal with the mild; some of these children have been through traumatic experiences. You have to be real always.”
In recent years, there has been a depleted resource of foster parents. The Department’s resources were further stretched when the Sunshine League shut down.
“They were our resource for siblings and children over the age of eight,” Ms Simons said. “We knew that they had the space and whenever we were in a bind we knew we had the Sunshine League. They took boys and girls between the ages of eight to 14.”
Now that there’s a new set of potential parents in the lineup for foster care, she said: “There is a challenge in earmarking a time frame for how long these placements will last because all children placed in Foster Care are put on a Family Court Order.
“Progress of the biological parents is reported to the Family Court. The length of a placement is solely dependent on the motivation, cooperation, willingness, capacity and ability of the biological parents.”
Asked how she ended up in this line of work, Ms Simons replied: “I’m a nurturer, always have been, since my days with Youth and Sports as a Summer Day Camp counselor.”
For more information about Foster Care in Bermuda, please contact Coordinator Selena Simons at 294-5871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Photos by Stephan Raynor Courtesy of DCI
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