Written by Wendy Hayes, a member of the Foundation’s Young Person’s Advisory Council and former young person in care
On May 14th 2012 a report entitled “My REAL Lifebook” was released. It was a report unlike any other which had valuable insight into the lives of Children and Youth in Care. Having been one of the youth leads, with the support of the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth who made this report come to fruition, I was at the event. The project was one that obviously hit close to home, yet I did not expect to feel the wave of emotion that I felt when then MCYS Minister the Hon. Dr. Erik Hoskins announced that he accepted the report. After over a year of hard work, meeting some amazing, strong, people, and talking about the challenges that we as youth in care face, something seemed to swell inside my chest to the point of tears.
Finally, someone was listening.
Amongst some other recommendations, declaring May 14th Provincial Children and Youth in Care was among them. The purpose of this was to keep Ontario’s youth on the minds of the government and the public. We are vulnerable. Some youth have reacted badly to this statement, and I insist that it should not be confused with weakness. Some of the most resilient people I know are youth who are in or were in care. It’s a statement made to remind you that when we are removed from our homes, the government and the public make a promise to take care of us in a way our families were not capable of.
We’ve been through a lot to get to this place; we need support, we need someone to invest in us. How can we believe in ourselves if someone else won’t believe in us first?
That is one of the reasons why the Children’s Aid Foundation is so important for us. They are now part of a network of caregivers that provides us with the basic things every child and youth needs to thrive. Music programs, summer camps, dresses for graduation, bursaries for school. It’s not about the money, it’s about knowing someone cares enough to invest in our happiness and our futures.
This May will be the first Official Children and Youth in Care Day. The province of Ontario is our parents, YOU are our parents. On this day, consider doing something that will benefit a young person in or from care.