CATHERINE is the proud mother of three, an advocate for youth from care, and currently pursuing a career in financial administration. Entering foster care at the age of 13, due to her parents’ challenges with addictions and mental illness, she left care at 15 and shortly after became pregnant. Despite struggling with her own parenting challenges, CATHERINE was able to receive support through her social worker and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, and ultimately achieve stability.
*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 Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.
Going [into a foster home] where you don’t know anybody, and trying to fit in with a new family, is really awkward and uncomfortable. You don’t know them and you’re expected to just go there and be OK with it. I’m a shy person, and it had always just been me and my dad. That was the hardest part for me.
“When I was about 13, both of my parents were struggling with mental health and addiction issues. My mother has been in and out of mental health facilities for my whole life, and I was raised primarily by my father. The pressure really got to my father, and I ended up going into foster care. After that, I was supposed to move to a new city with my dad, but ended up becoming pregnant at 15. I decided to stay in my hometown to raise my daughter. That was a challenge in itself; she became involved with the child welfare system, and was also placed in foster care for about a year. I was able to get her out of foster care, and we’ve been living together ever since.”
“Going [into a home] where you don’t know anybody and trying to fit in with a new family, is really awkward and uncomfortable. You don’t know them and you’re expected to just go there and be OK with it. I’m a shy person, and it had always just been me and my dad. That was the hardest part for me. It’s not your bed, it’s not your room, it’s not the people you’re used to being around. Once I got used to my foster parents and I realized they were very accepting of me, they exposed me to things like vacations, and going on a boat, and having access to nice clothes, living in a nice home – things I’d never experienced before. It was weird at first, but then it became normal.”
“I found out about Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada after leaving care, through my after care worker. She told me about the scholarships offered, because I wanted to go back to school. It gave me a huge head start in terms of not piling on student debt. Because I was going into my second year, I’d already accumulated some debts, but I was able to pay it off because of this support. Once I was registered in my course, I found out that I needed additional funding for the Canadian Securities License, and I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. And, the Foundation was able to help me pay for it, which was amazing.”
“As a youth, having to deal with your workers, it can be difficult at times because you are dealing with your worker and might not understand the seriousness of your situation, and want to be back with your family. You feel like the agency is the one who did this, and blame them [for separating you from your family]. I had a lot of resentment towards my workers, and then when I turned 18, I could understand where they were coming from and appreciated all the things they did for me. Giving me grocery cards and paying for my braces, things that my family wouldn’t have been able to afford.”
“When you’re in care, you think ‘I want to live independently, on my own’, but what you don’t think about is when you have a shower, that’s costing you money; when you do the dishes, that’s costing you money. When you flick on a light, that’s costing you money.”
“I didn’t really [pursue any education] between the ages of 18 and 24, and then once I turned 24, I wanted to go back to school. It’s also the mental and emotional support that’s hard to go without, too. I would call my worker and she’d help me with things like applying for OSAP; it was nice to have someone for a bit of guidance. I’ve done two years of Business Financial Administration for Financial Planning, and just before I was going to enter my third year, I discovered I was expecting another baby, so my education plans have been put on hold, but I’m hoping to take online courses throughout the summer, so I can continue my education. We don’t have parents to pay for us, and donors are making a difference in the lives of children who will eventually be adults, and who will eventually be contributing members of society. If people don’t donate and support them, what will happen to these kids?”