Country singer appeals for foster parents
American country music star and foster care campaigner Jimmy Wayne called yesterday for more Bermuda families to look after children in need of a home.
Mr Wayne, who spent eight years in the US care system, said that fostering children offered them a sense of normality.
He added: “What these kids get out of it is an opportunity to be a normal kid, an opportunity to go to school, to have an opportunity to feel safe for once, an opportunity to feel loved.”
Mr Wayne was speaking after Lindsay Simmons, president of the island’s Foster Parent Association, asked families to step forward to give vulnerable children needing a safe and loving environment.
Mr Wayne, a regular visitor to the island, won fame in the US as a singer and songwriter with country music hits Stay Gone, I Love You This Much and Do You Believe Me Now?.
But earlier in life he spent years in the North Carolina foster care system and was bounced from home to home.
Mr Wayne said: “I went into the foster care system as a young boy, about 8 years old, and I was in it until I aged out, which in North Carolina was at the age of 16.
“I was in and out of homes, just like a lot of these children who are moved from home to home, and I was homeless several times.
“I lived outside for a while, but I was helped by many kind people, especially Bea and Russell Costner.
“They gave me a home when I was 16, and that’s when my life changed.”
Mr Wayne said that only three months into his time with the family, Mr Costner — a Second World War veteran — died.
But he continued to live with 75-year-old Mrs Costner for six years.
The Department of Child and Family Services has also highlighted an “ongoing need” to find homes for emergency placements.
The department said it aimed to have between ten and 12 homes prepared to take emergency placements.
But there were only three homes available earlier this month.
Mr Wayne has worked in recent years to raise awareness about young people leaving the foster care system and wrote about his experiences in his memoir Walk to Beautiful — a three-time New York Times bestseller.
He has also written a children’s book, Ruby the Foster Dog, which also looks at the importance of foster care.
Mr Wayne said it was important to tell his story to help people understand foster care and what it means to those involved.
He added: “I think it’s a good thing, certainly for the kid. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
“People think they are helping the child, but they get a lot themselves in the long run.
“It’s something that brings you a lot of joy.
“I think the issue is quite a lot of people are afraid. People are willing to take in a dog before they do a kid. Once they get past that fear, things are good.”
But Mr Wayne warned that people interested in fostering a child needed to be aware of the pitfalls.
He said: “These children don’t need to be let down again. People need to know they are sure it’s what they want to do.
“Some people think it’s what they want to do and they take a kid in and they get tired or it gets difficult. Sometimes it can take a lot of work.
Mr Wayne added that people could also help foster children as a “respite parent” — taking in foster children on weekends or at other times.
He said there was a crisis in the foster care system in the US because 30,000 children left the system on age grounds every year.
Mr Wayne, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, added: “We love Bermuda. We just love it here. I like it because it’s a small island and you can cross the island in one day.
“It’s different from Hawaii — and I like Hawaii — but there you have to drive 21 miles to see that next waterfall, so you spend all day driving to see something pretty.
“Here, everything’s pretty. You can just look around wherever you are.”
For more information about fostering in Bermuda, contact Selena Simons on 294-5871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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