Amendment: It is with great sadness that Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada acknowledges Melissa’s passing in March 2023. With respect to her and her story, the Foundation has decided to maintain this article on our website in tribute to her inspiring words and journey. Melissa’s wish was to work at Native Child and Family Services, a goal she accomplished with perseverance and dedication. Melissa leaves behind many loved ones, including two children and her partner. Our condolences to Melissa’s friends and family.
At the Children’s Aid Foundation, we are always thinking about how we can share the authentic, lived experiences of young people from the child welfare system. Like the children and youth currently living in care, these individuals come from a variety of complex circumstances that have led to their involvement in care, including neglect, abuse, poverty, and issues with mental health. What they all share is an inspiring resilience and the ability to move forward in the face of adversity. They are proof that our pasts do not have to equal our futures.
We are honoured to share their stories through our ongoing Young People in Profile series. Each young person featured has received direct support from the Children’s Aid Foundation in order to build a brighter future. Inspired? Help us by sharing their stories with your network.
*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.
I just applied to college to become a Child and Youth Care Practitioner. I want to work for Native Child and Family Services and giveback to youth who are struggling and have no hope. Just like I was.
“My grandma had just passed away; she was helping my dad out, taking care of me and my siblings. I have a big family, three brothers and three sisters. I was taken into care when my dad relapsed on drugs. It was really hard not being with him. I didn’t have a mother figure and my sister was more or less our mother role; she cooked meals and did the laundry. I was taken into foster care with my older and younger sisters, and one of them ran away. That was very confusing. I thought she got to go back with my dad, and I felt really shutout, like ‘why are we not going back’? At a young age, it messes with your head. I became depressed because I wasn’t around my family.”
At a young age, it messes with your head. I became depressed because I wasn’t around my family.
“I assumed that because I’m Native, I would be with a Native family, but I wasn’t. I was a kid being placed into a stranger’s home. I wasn’t used to the food. Before, when I was with my dad, we’d go to powwows and other cultural events. But after going into care, I barely took part in my culture. I was once a fancy shawl dancer, but after entering care it was no longer a part of my life. You can lose your culture when you’re removed from your family. It’s important to know who you are, where you come from, and the history of your people. Being aboriginal, I think our culture’s very beautiful. I received an award from Native Child and Family Services for always having the courage to try, and that’s also really helped to shape my identity.”
“My uncle took me out of foster care and into his care. I lived with him from the end of grade 7 to the beginning of grade 10. That’s where I became very depressed, because I had no contact with my other family except for social media. My siblings and I were completely separated. We didn’t have any visitations together, except for Christmas; that was our big event. After Christmas time, things became very hard for me to the point where I started to self-harm. My uncle became concerned and put me in counselling. When I went to high school, I started hanging-out with the wrong people and became addicted to drugs, failed classes, got into fights and suspended. My uncle could no longer take it because he was caring for my cousin, who had became influenced by the lifestyle I was living. I left my uncle’s house to move into a friend’s house where drugs were very accessible, and using was a part of my daily routine. During March Break, I suffered from alcohol poisoning twice within the same week.”
You can lose your culture when you enter care. It’s important to know who you are, where you come from, and the history of your people. Being aboriginal, I think our culture’s very beautiful.
“I moved back to Toronto to live in a group home, re-connected with my old boyfriend, and became pregnant at 15. My daughter saved my life. I was still on a destructive path, but when I became pregnant, I stopped everything. I got into counselling, did prenatal classes, and went back to school. I just wanted better things for my daughter and didn’t want her to be in the system, like myself. My daughter is my world; I wanted to be good, I wanted to be the mother I never had. I’m so proud to say that I’ve become that person for her.”
“Not having help, not growing-up with any help, and then trying to accept help, can be really hard. Now, I view my identity as resilient, motivating, responsible, and independent. My biggest value is family because I always wanted a good family. Family, to me, means an unbreakable unit, love, and structure. Family is everything that I’ve ever wanted, and I’m the happiest that I’ve been in my entire life. My message for young people in care is to be brave. As scary as it is, as hard as it is, you can do anything that you want. Push yourself to break the cycles in your family.”
…When I became pregnant, I stopped everything. I got into counselling, did prenatal classes, and went back to school. I just wanted better things for my daughter and didn’t want her to be in the system, like myself. My daughter is my world; I wanted to be good, I wanted to be the mother I never had. I’m so proud to say that I’ve become that person for her.