CHLOE, 26, is a dedicated mother of three children. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree through Humber College, with her sights set on a Master’s in Social Work so she can support youth who are struggling. As a former youth in care and recipient of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada funding, her life has never been simple. Entering care at the age of two due to her mother’s challenges with mental illness, she entered her father’s care, only to enter permanent care at the age of 12. Moving between group homes, she struggled to make any meaningful connections. This took a detrimental toll on both her self-worth and identity. After moving to independent living at 16, CHLOE became involved in an unhealthy relationship and eventually pregnant with nowhere to live. Becoming a mother changed her life. She met a social worker at a shelter for pregnant women, and was able to find a place to live and eventual 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 the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.
I believe there are four words more powerful than ‘I love you’, and that’s ‘I’m here for you’. I’m not just a client or a number; I’m a human and I need to be cared about.
“My mother had mental health issues and wasn’t able to take care of me, so I was placed in care when I was about two. My dad took me out of care, but when I was nine, he dropped me off at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), told me which floor to go to, and after that I was in foster care. I was really broken, and because of that didn’t want to stay in a foster home. I ran away and ended up in a group home at age 11, and then when I turned 12, I became a Crown ward. I would breakdown in the homes whenever I didn’t feel safe; sometimes there were peers I didn’t feel safe with, sometimes I didn’t feel like staff members made me feel cared about. I would sometimes lie at eye doctor appointments so CAS would buy me glasses; I would do things like that to feel cared about. And, I didn’t like how my life was based on shifts [which were part of the group home schedule]. Every shift was a different dynamic; you knew how your night was going to go depending on [which staff] were coming in. I just felt like if I was going to raise myself, I may as well be living on my own. I would constantly run away. But, because of the lack of group homes they had, I would always end up back in the same places.”
“After I turned 16, CAS could’ve wiped their hands of me, but they told me to find a place to live and that they would help me pay for it. I had a child and they supported me one hundred percent, whereas some people who get pregnant at 17 and are Crown wards are really scared their babies will be taken away from them. I had a different experience because of my worker; she was my number one fan.”
“When I first transitioned from care, it was scary. I was couch surfing for about 30 days, but I think because I started running away at an early age, I was used to it. I found a place [to live] but the funding wasn’t enough; I needed the Hydro on and didn’t have enough money, so I got a boyfriend who sold drugs. I ended up losing my apartment because of him, and back in Toronto living in shelters. And then I met my child’s father in a shelter and became pregnant. I just needed my son, he was my saviour. I didn’t know where I was going, I had nobody; I was very lost and getting pregnant helped me look at what tomorrow was going to look like. I ended up in a pregnancy shelter and [received continued support from] my amazing worker; she truly believed I was going to be a good mom, even though some other people doubted me because of what I’ve experienced. She got the Foundation to support me in order to move out of the shelter, and helped me find a place to live. [And,] I’ve been stable since about 19.”
“There’s a mentorship program called the Special Friends program, [a volunteer program run through the Children’s Aid Society and supported through Foundation funding]; I received a Special Friend from the moment I entered care, and she’s been my everything. When I needed to find a place to live, she drove me to look at them. She’s taught me to be the person I am today and what unconditional love is.”
“Access to education is everything. I’m a student at Humber College, pursuing a Bachelor’s. I have the ability to feel empathy and I do believe I can create change; I have to have my education, otherwise I’m just a single mom who’s a Crown ward. I think I’d be a great frontline worker, and I’d like to go on and do my Master’s in Social Work. I’d love to run my own residential home one day.”
“I still go to the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC) when I need help. When I’ve needed funding for things, including Foundation funding, PARC really helps so much. Bursaries are really helpful. I don’t have anywhere else to turn for that; I do feel blessed, if I wasn’t part of the Foundation I’d be out of luck.”
“Without money for youth in care, we wouldn’t have things like the holidays. That’s a very dark time for youth living in care. We’re reminded we’re not loved by the people who should’ve loved us. Having funding to send us to camp [is also important]. Maybe if more funding had been available when I was [in care], I wouldn’t have gone down the wrong path. If you look at the statistics, 70% of youth on streets have had child welfare involvement. You wonder if maybe they’d had more options or programs, [they would’ve ended up in a different place].”
“I believe there are four words more powerful than “I love you”, and that’s “I’m here for you”. I’m not just a client or a number; I’m a human and I need to be cared about.”
“I had no identity; I was the bad kid, I was the troubled girl. I never felt like I belonged anywhere, I was that orphan with no chance of adoption. I was never really wanted and isolated from the world. I didn’t know how to make friends when I went out on my own, because there was never really anyone to turn to. Now I know who I am; I’m a mom, I’m a student, I’m a child and youth worker.”