Three foster children get education boosts
Teens whose childhoods were spent in foster care are now pursuing their dreams thanks to big-hearted donors.
Tylasha DeSilva, 17, and 18-year-old Sierra Brangman, have been awarded $30,000 and $20,000 for their education by the Foster Parents’ Association.
A third girl, 18-year-old Kal-Shae Matthews, also received $10,000 from the charity towards her studies. Tylasha, who just graduated as head girl at the Berkeley Institute, said she was exposed to “mental, physical and sexual abuse” over her life.
“It was hard, I had to witness a lot of things young children should not see,” she said. “I was born into the system and moved from different foster homes through my whole life.”
Her journey from home to home included eight months on the Brangman Home in Devonshire, a girls’ residence run by the Department of Child and Family Services. Tylasha, who now resides with her grandparents in Devonshire, said she was initially “very rebellious; I didn’t think they would keep me”.
She added: “I realised recently that my nana wants what’s best for me. I am about to age out of the system and she still wants to take care of me. But it was definitely a struggle. Other homes, I moved out for financial reasons or because they could not get on with my parents.”
Lindsay Simmons, president of the Foster Parents’ Association, told The Royal Gazette: “I try to emphasise that foster children are the most unique children in Bermuda. Even when they are placed in a safer home, they want to go back home, whether it is abusive or not. It can take years for them to feel comfortable.”
Ms Simmons added: “I know that as a foster parent right now. You’re taking someone that’s broken and trying to fix them.
“What touched me about Tylasha is that when she graduated, she said people thought she would end up pregnant and on the streets. She said ‘Look — I made it’.”
A singer, Tylasha heads off this month to tour with the educational performance group Up With People. Ultimately, she dreams of obtaining a master’s degree in teaching children with special needs.
She said: “I’m actually grateful for everything I’ve been through. I can’t imagine where I would be. I would not have that hunger for success.”
Ms Simmons said the foster care system in Bermuda contained “so many hero stories”.
Sierra, who has been in foster care since she was five months old, is in her second year on a scholarship at the United World College in Hong Kong, an International Baccalaureate school.
She said: “I’m a social science person; I like history and global politics.
“I want to go to law school. I don’t know where I’m going to study yet, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
She added: “Without this help, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
The Foster Parents’ Association is a small charity, Ms Simmons said, but thanks to dedicated donors and volunteers it does “everything it can to help these amazing children, some of Bermuda’s forgotten”.
Ms Simmons said: “This year we have been able to give away $60,000 to help children who deserve a break in life.”
Ms Simmons said the island’s official tally of foster children, as recorded by the Department of Child and Family Services, was 73.
But she estimated the total in care could be closer to 85, since some fell under the responsibility of different departments.
“Children may be in Brangman home or the boys group home and technically that falls into another department,” Ms Simmons said.
“Also, there is a division that deals with family preservation, which sometimes moves children to foster homes for a period. But, because it is not formally ‘foster care’, as ordered via the court, it would not be in the 73.”
Foster children move out of the system at age 18, but can face difficult choices on their own: Gina Spence, a community activist, warned this year that those who “age out” were at greater risk of becoming homeless.
• To donate or learn more about the Foster Parents’ Association, call 505-7764 or e-mail email@example.com
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