Foster-care children at greatest risk
Former foster children are at greater risk of becoming homeless once they strike out on their own, a community activist warned yesterday.
Gina Spence said that many homeless young people had been forced to leave their foster homes after they became adults and ended up on the streets because they could not afford somewhere to live.
She explained that foster families that break contact with their former foster children may do so because of a lack of space or financial constraints.
Ms Spence added: “I had a situation where a young lady was staying with a foster parent who had taken her from young and the foster parent was a senior now.
“She just was not able to maintain the life of the young person and herself because it was just the two of them.”
Ms Spence said that some young people had resorted to drug dealing or prostitution to survive, which could cause feelings of guilt or shame.
She added that, because of the situation they were in, many young people were vulnerable to exposure to the elements and violence.
Ms Spence explained: “Once you’re out there, you’re vulnerable to all types of danger, whether it be drugs, whether it be abuse physically, whether it be abuse sexually, whether it be just the threat of somebody knowing that you don’t have anywhere to live so they say ‘if I give you this space you’ve got to do this for me’.”
Ms Spence said that many young people who leave the foster-care system sleep at houses of friends or in a derelict house with others.
She explained: “If you have maybe two or three of them that are all in the same position, they would all meet at this house where they can then relax, and then they just take up residency there.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Child and Family Services said that officials took several precautions before foster children left the system.
• A year before the child ages out of the system, an assessment of any obstacles the child might face is made
• The Ageing Out Youth programme at Bermuda College offers free tuition
• The Foster Parents Association provides funding for books and “incidentals” for the Ageing Out Youth programme and advice on scholarships
• Foster Care runs a ten-week life skills programme for foster children aged 16 to 18, which provides “the tools to recognise, evaluate, and revise expectations from others and themselves”
The department spokeswoman said that it was common for foster children to remain with their foster parents even after they became adults.
She added: “The department can confirm that all children ageing out in 2019, and most recent years, have remained with their foster families post ageing out.”