Desperate mother faces bleak choice for son

  • Struggling: a special needs boy’s shoes on the floor of the tiny apartment he shares with his single mother and infant brother (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

    Struggling: a special needs boy’s shoes on the floor of the tiny apartment he shares with his single mother and infant brother (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A poverty-stricken single mother of two said she faced the grim prospect of putting her six-year-old son in foster care because she could no longer cope.

Antoinette — not her real name — said she struggled to get by on a part-time wage as a housekeeper. The 25-year-old shares a one-bedroom apartment with her infant son and her six-year-old, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and may also have autism. She said she contacted The Royal Gazette because “I just want it out there”.

Antoinette added she dreaded the thought of putting her older son in foster care, having been scarred by her own experience as a foster child. She said: “It’s going the route I don’t want to go; putting him in foster care. I’ve thought about doing it, but I was in the system myself. I’m just trying not to go that route.”

Antoinette added her time in the care of the Department of Child and Family Services was “horrible”. She added: “Without me having my sons, I really don’t know where I’d be. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the very best out of the life situations I have been in.”

Antoinette said neither of the boys’ fathers pays child support, but she did get some help from her brother and grandmother.

But she added: “My granny is getting up in age, and I am not going to have her as help.”

Antoinette started her latest job in January and also limited financial assistance because of her son’s disability.

But services from the Child Development Programme were cut off when the boy turned four years of age.

The child has limited potty training and is sometimes aggressive with other children.

But Antoinette said she had struggled to find a school where the boy can get specialist professional help.

She explained: “It’s hard to do because of the lack of speech pathologists on the island and the lack of coverage from insurance.”

Antoinette said dealing with government agencies was “just a waiting game”.

She added: “Every time you call, you get a different person and a different story.”

Antoinette said: “I know the famous saying ‘less is more’. But you’re taking from the people who need it the most. It took me four years to get this job and every day it’s a struggle.”

Martha Dismont, executive director at Family Centre, said she saw “two major issues” in the family’s crisis.

She explained: “On the one hand, there are support services in Bermuda that are there for those in need of help, but we are all very aware that services need to be operating from the very best standard of practice in order to serve families in need.

“We also know that we need more professionals in these services who can support families with finance problems, skill development and problem-solving.”

Ms Dismont added the island’s high cost of living was “greatly impacting families of low income and low skills”.

Antoinette added her income was so low and her time so limited that she was unable to use a charity like Tomorrow’s Voices, which provides an early intervention service for children with autism.

She said she believed that she also suffered from depression and was “traumatised” which had left her with a “fear of getting back into the system”.

Ms Dismont said that people in Antoinette’s situation “often do not know how to resolve their problems themselves”.

She added: “We’re seeing increasing numbers of families struggling, and it needs to be addressed with greater case management resource in agencies — and more funding resources to assist families.”

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Published Jun 21, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 6:40 am)

Desperate mother faces bleak choice for son

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