YPAC was founded in 2013 with one visionary goal: to involve the young people that the Children’s Aid Foundation serves directly in the work we do. Joe Canavan (former CEO of CAF) established the Young People’s Advisory Council to allow members to shape the priorities and positioning of the Foundation by sharing their knowledge, expertise, experiences, and needs, and by acting as ambassadors for our organization in the wider community.
Alumni: Shameer Rahman and
Anna Amy Ho
Tolu was born in London, England but was raised in Vancouver, Canada for most of his life. He recently moved to Toronto two years ago to change his environment and, in doing so, discovered his true passions: health and business. He enrolled in a college program studying anatomy and business for fitness and health, becoming the second person in his family to graduate from college. In 2016 Tolu attended the Children’s Aid Foundation’s five14 Talks in celebration of Ontario’s Children and Youth in Care Day where he met a YPAC member who highly recommended he apply to join the council.
High school was a difficult time for Tolu. He and his single mother, who tried her best, moved between homeless shelters. Due to increasing conflict at home, he was eventually taken away and thrown into foster care where he also faced bullying. He searched for every quick fix until he realized the pain was within him. During this difficult time, his foster parents encouraged him to express himself though fitness, enrolling in mix martial arts. He began to flourish like a flower from concrete. Living a healthy lifestyle became his outlet, his source of healing and happiness.
Tolu’s ultimate goal is to develop a company specializing in men’s health worldwide, from nutrition, skincare, fitness, fashion, giving personal advice and giving back to the community. Another bucket-list goal is to deliver a TED Talk, inspiring others with his journey to self-care and entrepreneurship.
Biography to come
Crystal first experienced the Child Welfare System when she was 11 years old. At that time, she was made a Crown ward due to her mother’s terminal medical illness. She is the middle child of three siblings, and all siblings were made Crown wards and subsequently separated from each other in different foster and group homes.
At 21-years-old, Crystal moved out on her own and started planning her future, rebuilding ties with her sisters, and working to pursue a post-secondary education.
She has been an active member at the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre for the past 10 years, both as a youth member attending drop-in groups and in most recent years as a Financial Literacy Facilitator. Crystal has joined the Young People’s Advisory Council because she believes in youth advocacy, empowerment, and most importantly giving back to a system that she has experienced firsthand.
Crystal graduated with a Diploma in Community and Justice Service, and is currently pursuing a Degree in Criminal Justice; she will be graduating in 2017. Crystal has ambitions of one day starting her own not-for-profit organization, working with people who have experienced the Justice System.
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Biography to come
Immigrating to Canada at a young age, Anna’s childhood has been marked by change, instability and abuse. On the day of her grade eight graduation, she witnessed the murder of her mother and grandmother at the hands of her mother’s abusive common-law partner. Orphaned at 13, she moved between kinship homes before transitioning to independent living at age 16. Without family she could rely on and without stability, she turned to the arts. Dance and musical theatre became her safe haven and sense of identity.
Anna is now an aerialist, crisis counsellor/case coordinator, and an outspoken public speaker/advocate for youth touched by the child welfare system. In addition to being a YPAC member, she is a Board Executive for Ryerson Radio Inc. and an advisor to the CAS Investigations Unit with the Provincial Advocate’s Office. In 2015, along with graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Social Work degree, she received the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction in recognition of her service to victims of crime and vulnerable youth.
Despite childhood trauma that completely altered her life, Anna’s resilience has resulted in determination and resilience that leads her to succeed in the face of adversity. One day, Anna hopes to use dance movement therapy in trauma treatment and create a therapeutic arts center where people can access arts-based forms of psychotherapy.
Christina came into care when she was eleven years old. A survivor of sexual abuse, she struggled to fit in and overcome her hardships. But 15 years later, she stands before you a strong and independent woman. Christina has chosen a career in nursing so that she can help and make a difference one life at a time.
Passionate about empowering youth to realize and reach their full potential, Christina believes anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it. Knowledge is power, and that power will allow you to achieve your goals and dreams. It’s so important for youth to pursue an education so they can get the jobs they want in life.
Christina is excited to be involved with YPAC to give back to the community and to help be part of the process of making change and taking action toward the issues that young people in the child welfare system face.
Shyanne was apprehended three days before her fifteenth birthday. She has six younger brothers and a younger sister. Over five years ago, when she was just 11, Shyanne was living with her mom and raising her siblings. She was responsible for changing, feeding, bathing, and dressing her siblings, as well as getting them to school and taking care of household chores. Each of Shyanne’s stepfathers were very physically and mentally abusive and had substance abuse issues. But, everything changed when she entered foster care.
Shyanne is now 21-years-old and currently in her fourth and final year of her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Youth Care. After she earns her degree, she would like to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. She graduated high school as an Ontario Scholar with over 155 community hours and a science award. Shyanne continues to be an ambassador, public speaker, and volunteer in her community. She hopes to continue to make positive changes within the child welfare system for present and future youth in care.
Shyanne is currently the Ontario Director for Youth in Care Canada, on the board of directors for the Durham Children’s Aid Foundation, youth council member at Durham Children’s Aid Society, and is apart of the Residential Youth Services Panel with the Ontario Provincial Advocates Office (OPACY).
Riley is in her 3rd year of an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Development Studies, with a specialization in Social Work at the University of Waterloo, and plans to complete the Masters of Social Work at Western University.
Riley was in and out of foster care from the age of seven until becoming a crown ward at 14 due to enduring physical and emotional abuse as well as severe neglect and abandonment prior to becoming a crown ward.
Horses and their therapeutic effects have been a huge and healing part of her life. Riley currently teaches horseback riding lessons and offers therapeutic horseback riding to clients on her foster family’s farm.
A recipient of the Dr. Steinhauer scholarship through the Children’s Aid Foundation, Riley has joined YPAC because she wants to use her experiences in care to help as many current and former youth in care that she can. Riley is committed to making a positive difference and does not want to wait until she’s in her career to do so.
Ultimately, Riley would like to work as an Equine Facilitated Psychotherapist for youth in care working with horses as a co-facilitator to the therapy and healing process, with a focus on attachment, self-compassion and the work of Dr. Brene Brown, Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Gordon Neufield.
Young People’s Advisory Council terms are two years, and during that time our members’ advice and leadership have a significant impact on our work at the Foundation and the child welfare sector. When terms end, every members’ contributions live on. Also, many former YPAC members continue to be child-welfare advocates and ambassadors, advisors and volunteers at the Foundation. While no longer serving on YPAC, their legacy will live on for generations to come, and so our alumni care called Honorary YPAC Members.
Yuan Stevens (née Barnes)