Call for families to consider foster care
A festive appeal for more foster families has been launched.
Lindsay Simmons, president of the Foster Parent Association, said vulnerable children needed a safe and loving environment, particularly over the holiday season.
She added: “It’s important to be a foster parent because these children are children in our community and everybody wants to live in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
“To take in a child at any point, but especially at this time of year, is special because they feel a sense of home, a sense of being wanted.
“Giving part of yourself and part of your time is something you don’t get paid for, but it is the most rewarding job. There is no greater gift than giving.”
She added that more foster parents are definitely needed.
Selena Simons, foster care co-ordinator with the Department of Child and Family Services, agreed there was an “ongoing need” to ensure homes were available for emergency placements.
She said they aim to have between ten and 12 empty beds for emergency placement, but there were only three beds open earlier this month.
Ms Simmons said becoming a foster parent was a process and prospective parents had to be vetted.
She added: “Everyone has to buy into it, so there is a process that has to be followed before you become a foster parent, but it is very rewarding.”
Ms Simmons said being a foster parent could also be tough because “you’re dealing with people. Not every day is going to be easy. You may have your own children and not every day is a good day, but you hope that the children come out on the better side of it because of the work you put in to make sure that they have a safe and healthy life.”
Ms Simmons explained that the goal of fostering was to get the children back home to their families, but this was not always possible.
The 36-year-old has been a foster parent for more than a decade and has had more than a dozen children in her care from emergency and long-term placements.
Ms Simmons welcomed a ten-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, into her family more than a year ago.
Ms Simmons said: “The child I have now feels that my home is her home.
“I’ve never treated her any different from my daughter and she feels that’s where she is supposed to be, so she doesn’t necessarily ask for her family.”
Ms Simmons added that because she has a big and welcoming family it was easy for her foster daughter to get into the Christmas spirit.
She said: “My family embraces everybody, whether you are a foster child or just somebody I bring home or my family brings home; we take everybody in.
“Because I work at a restaurant, Christmas now always consists of my family, my foster child and then all my chefs, so it’s a big gathering and we invite everybody.”
Ms Simmons has also fostered children who found the holidays more difficult because they wanted to know where their family was.
She explained that some children are able to have contact with their birth family but others cannot, which can make holidays difficult for them.
Ms Simmons, director of operations and human resources at Rosa’s Cantina and Chopsticks Fusion, also organised a gift drive for the island’s children with Big Brothers Big Sisters Bermuda.
They decorated two Christmas trees with angels and each angel represented a child.
Ms Simmons said: “Our programme is unique because each of our angels actually represent an individual child, so whoever they pick, that gift is going to that child.”
She added that all the angels were chosen, with people choosing gifts for 82 foster children and 93 BBBS children. They hosted a special Christmas party for the foster children on December 14.
Ms Simmons said: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a group of children from newborn babies to 17-year olds excited to get a picture with Santa. The children were excited to receive their gifts and to see the joy on their face brought me to tears.”
The gifts for the BBBS children were also delivered on December 14 and they were able to pick them up from the charity.
Ms Simmons thanked all those who helped out with the event as well as those who pitched in to organise the Winter Wonderland community giveback event on December 17.
She gave a special shout out to RenaissanceRe employees, Holly Pacheco, of DanceSations, and the board of the Foster Parent Association.
Ms Simmons also thanked Melonie Dill, the vice-president of the Foster Parent Association, for going “over and beyond”.
She said: “For her birthday she asked all her friends to get extra gifts for the foster children and she was able to get 170 gifts so mostly everybody got an extra two gifts. That touched my heart.”
Ms Simmons also thanked Stacey deShield and Bruce Tucker, as well as insurance company MS Amlin for donating money to the Winter Wonderland event.
• For more information about fostering, contact Selena Simons, Foster Care Coordinator on 294-5871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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