May 14th marks Children and Youth in Care Day across Ontario. This day of celebration, initiated by the “Our Voice, Our Turn: Youth Leaving Care Hearings”, honours the strength and resilience of the nearly 67,000 young people who are currently living in care across Canada.
CASSANDRA, this month’s Young Person in Profile, has come full circle in the child welfare system, transitioning from a youth in care to a children’s service worker with Toronto’s Jewish Family and Child. After experiencing the devastating lack of permanency faced by so many kids in care, CASSANDRA was able to build her own family — a word that now includes an adoptive mother, father, sister, as well as her two sons and a soon-to-be husband.
*The opinions and views expressed in this article are that of the youth in profile, and not necessarily reflective of the official opinion or position of the Children’s Aid Foundation.
Family is very different for me now. When I was 16 and pregnant at Massey Centre for Women, I met a girl who I now refer to as my sister, and her parents, who I now call my parents, too… I’m getting married in October and my dad’s going to walk me down the aisle. I’m not sure how I would go about things like that if I didn’t have them; you kind of get stuck on it if you don’t have anyone.
“I was 12 or 13, and the relationship between my mother and I was very toxic; I could no longer reside at home. I’m one of four kids, and I was the only one who was removed and made a Crown ward; there were a lot of issues with neglect and abuse… There was almost a sense of relief upon entering care; like — ‘Finally, this is going to end. I’m no longer going to be treated poorly.’ I remember sitting on the couch at the group home and thinking ‘Oh God, did I make a mistake by agreeing to come into care?’ But, it was only for a moment, and then I thought: ‘No, this has to be better. Anything has to be better than going home.’”
“I was in group care, and sharing a residence with other girls. I was the youngest in the house. Being a teenager, about to embark on puberty and other transitions, along with trying to address all the other stuff, it was challenging. My group home was very structured and rigid; some kids thrive off of that, some rebel. I did a bit of both.”
“When I was started working, finding clothes to wear to the office, and knowing what was appropriate and what wasn’t, that was a challenge. Even things like weddings; I had no idea prior to my adult years that you’re supposed to bring a gift, and that was just something standard. Nobody taught me that. And you’re left wondering why the bride and groom aren’t calling you after the wedding.”
“Family is very different for me now. When I was 16 and pregnant at Massey Centre for Women, I met a girl who I now refer to as my sister, and her parents, who I now call my parents, too. I needed support when I was 17, and even though I didn’t move-in with them, they were still there; through school, through raising my son independently. I’m getting married in October and my dad’s going to walk me down the aisle. I’m not sure how I would go about things like that if I didn’t have them; you kind of get stuck on it if you don’t have anyone.”
“Now, being both a professional and someone from care, I think Children and Youth in Care Day is incredibly important. This is our turn to be heard; adults and legislation are listening. Even if kids don’t speak-up, they know that they could be heard. I plan on getting my Master’s and [thanks to the organizations like the Children’s Aid Foundation] I have that support. It’s almost like having that opportunity to make mistakes. I think youth in care need to know that it’s OK to make mistakes, and that no matter what they’ll always supported.”