Having a foster child ‘has really, truly enriched our lives’
May is Foster Care Month. The Royal Gazette is highlighting people who have made the decision to “spend a season” working with the Department of Child and Family Services whenever there are children in need of help.
Erica and Tim Davidson put their names forward as foster parents hoping to help a family in need.
The couple, who have two young children of their own, didn’t expect to get so much back.
“It’s actually been, for us as a family unit, an amazing experience having her come to live with us,” Ms Davidson said of the ten-year-old they welcomed into their home this year.
“I’m cautious in using the word ‘amazing’ because obviously on the other side, there’s significant trauma and pain that has led to this placement.
“But in terms of our family dynamic experience, I would say without a doubt, across the board, she has really, truly enriched our lives.”
She remembers “being intrigued” by her mother Anna Fulton’s cousins who were foster parents in the UK.
Her interest was further piqued through her father Ian’s work as a gynecologist “and particularly with my mother working as an occupational therapist at Child and Adolescent Services”.
“It was just something that was within my conscience,” she said. “And then when we had our own children, it really came into focus when thinking about the enormous family support that we are so privileged to have and how others, through no fault of their own, can find themselves in entirely different circumstances.”
Despite that, the Davidsons decided to wait until their toddlers, Hazel and Oscar, were a bit older.
Mr Davidson was guided by the positive experiences of two colleagues, “one who was a foster parent with his wife and the other had grown up with his parents fostering”.
Ultimately it was the “outpouring of community support” that was shown during the early days of the pandemic, when businesses were shut down and families lost their income, that led them to speak with Selena Simons, foster care co-ordinator at Child and Family Services.
“It made you really think about how so many in our community are vulnerable – those whose jobs disappeared overnight, those whose family life was already under tremendous stress and strain which, before the pandemic an extended family member may have been able to help ease, but now those family supports were equally depleted,” Ms Davidson said.
Added to that was “this painful awareness” that they were “in this extremely privileged position where the pandemic did not affect our day-to-day living”.
The couple formally applied to become foster parents in April of 2021 and received their first placement this year.
“Initially we were adamant that we would foster a newborn baby or someone under a year because of the ages of our own kids,” Ms Davidson said. “We were thinking that a baby would be less disruptive around sharing toys and competing for our attention as parents. But as with anything it worked out in the best possible way.”
Becoming a foster parent is something that might work for you whether you have children of your own or not, Erica and Tim Davidson believe.
The couple discussed it for “probably a year” before they reached out to Child and Family Services.
“Selena [Simons] was so helpful in answering our questions and getting us to think about the realities of fostering,” Ms Davidson said.
“I think it's about making sure you take the time to think carefully about how it would work in whatever home environment that you have – whether you're single or a couple, whether you have children or not. Providing a loving, stable and supportive home environment is often what many people are naturally doing anyway.”
Commitment is very important, Mr Davidson stressed.
“We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it as a couple and we talked about it with our families as well. I think when you make that decision to do it, and you're obviously going to be providing such an important role for the foster child that you need to make sure that you're committed because it's not fair on a child who has already been through so much.”
Ms Davidson is grateful for the “tremendous” support they receive from social workers.
“They have really been another key element of our transition to becoming foster parents. They also feel like they have been very much part of our village. It is unbelievable the hours and work that they put into supporting our most vulnerable in Bermuda. And that they do it with so much love and compassion.”
Mr Davidson was off the island when an e-mail arrived saying the family would receive their first foster child within the next 24 hours. It fell to his wife to prepare their three- and four-year-old.
“We had a room that was prepared which they knew was for somebody who might come and stay with us to give their family some time to heal.
“And when we got that call saying she's going to come, that evening then I sat down with the children.
“We talked about her name and her age and that she was going to come and stay – at their age the initial conversation needs to be quite simple.
“Equally you know that this was a very complex situation for them to process. There was – as anyone would expect – an adjustment period for everybody as we settled into our new normal.
“But I would say our kids just adore her so much, and their lives are certainly hugely enriched by her in our lives.”
Ongoing training from Child and Family Services on how to support children with trauma has been a massive help, Mr Davidson said.
The biggest challenge has been understanding the needs of a child who is older than their own.
“We’ve really relied on friends and family members, particularly with kids the same age, who have given us so much support – thinking about things like homework and what's appropriate on the TV and bedtime,” Ms Davidson said.
“Another huge area has been thinking about hair care and I’m for ever grateful to a dear friend and her daughter, who have spent much time helping to guide me through products and understanding the intricacies of caring for hair that is different to my own ethnicity.
“It has just further emphasised how privileged we are to have so many who care and support us through this journey.”
The whole family is aware that the child will not be in their home for ever. Ms Davidson’s “deepest hope” is that she can one day rejoin her family.
“If we can play a role in helping a family get back together I can’t imagine a more rewarding gift. Our children obviously don't really understand, but equally, at that age they don't really ask those bigger questions.
“And so it’s just going to be one of those bridges that we will cross when we get there.
“But you go into this journey knowing there is that element, no matter how much you love them, that reunification, when it can happen is what is most important.”
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should contact Selena Simons, Foster Care Co-ordinator at the Department of Child and Family Services: 294-5871; email@example.com