With the ongoing support of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada funding, TAWNYA, 20, will graduate from Durham College as a Dean’s List recipient and with a Diploma in Human Resources. She hopes to launch a career in human resources management, and later this year will be studying abroad in Ireland to complete her Honours Bachelor of Business in Human Resources Management. Entering the child welfare system at the age of four, TAWNYA joined a supportive foster family, where she still lives. Although she initially struggled with learning, due to neglect that caused delays in her early development, she later became an avid student, making it onto the Honour Roll in grade eight. Determined to enter post-secondary school, TAWNYA received a Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada scholarship and landed an internship in human resources through the Foundation’s Element Youth Capital Program.
*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.
“My sibling and I lived with our mother, who had various partners coming in and out of her life. She didn’t know how to take care of us and didn’t have the parenting skills that parents should have. I was four when I entered care, and was placed in a foster home where I still live. I was very fortunate to have the same foster parents, which was really helpful with my education.”
“My greatest challenges were with education, because when I first came into care I was very delayed; I wasn’t potty trained, I didn’t speak, I didn’t have the knowledge of other four year olds, and that became very relevant when I was elementary school. I had a lot of help throughout elementary school, I had tutors, but there were a lot of educational barriers for me. Up until grade six I struggled with my grades, English and math. When I got into grades seven and eight, I started to blossom. I got on the Honour Roll and then went onto high school; I really wanted to graduate from high school and go onto post-secondary school. Now, I’m the second person in my family to graduate from high school. My mom left her home at 16, but she was thought it was important to graduate from high school, and so became the first person [to do so].”
“When I was in grade three, I had a psych evaluation and they said I wouldn’t be able to succeed and I wouldn’t get anywhere in life, because I was still really delayed at that time. I knew right then that I wanted to prove the doctor wrong, and I think it’s really important for youth from care to know that they can set and achieve their goals.”
“One big challenge of growing up in the system was that people didn’t understand what it meant to be in foster care; they thought I was in a group home. I was very involved with my foster family; we’d go on vacations and go camping, and I did summer camps. There’s definitely a stereotype, but I think it’s really important to dissolve that because there are so many kids from care who are able to be successful.”
“I would not be where I am today without the support of my foster family. If the school said I couldn’t do something, they would always fight for me. I remember after I got that report from the doctor saying I wouldn’t be anything, and they said ‘no she will be something’. It’s important that everyone has someone who will support them.
“I’m currently at Durham College taking Human Resources, and I’ve just finished my third year of school there. I think it’s important for youth to take advantage of the opportunities they’re given through Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. I was lucky to have bursaries and scholarships. The first year I went to school I received a scholarship and that helped me pay for my tuition and books, and also a new laptop that I was required to buy for my program. After my first year, I was able to get an internship through the Element Youth Capital Program run by the Foundation. It was a summer student position, in a human resources assistant role. I’m really glad that I’ve been able to achieve my goals because of this support.”
“I think it’s important for youth from care to have these opportunities, because first of all there’s a stereotype about youth from care that they’re not trustworthy and all that, and secondly, everyone needs a support system, and for a lot of youth they don’t have that support system in place. These days it’s about who you know [as much as] what you know.”
“My goal right now is to finish school, and I’ll have my advanced diploma in human resources. I’d like to do a bit of travelling after that and then I would like to get a job. I’d like to one day be a human resources manager and live in downtown Toronto, in a condo.”
“The largest barrier for youth from care is lack of financial support. When you’re in care, you age out at 18 and for some students they can barely afford housing or food, and for them, post-secondary education falls into the background. And if their parents haven’t gone to post-secondary school, they don’t have the reference to say ‘oh my parents went, too’.”
“If we don’t support youth from care, they’re going to be part of the cycle of having children in the care system or being on welfare. If we don’t help them now, it won’t be helpful in the future. You’re helping them break the cycle and contribute to society.”