Written by Matthew Powell, an ambassador for the Foundation and former young person in care.
I am an intellectual by nature and an existentially broken philosopher. These two attributes of my personality have their psychological roots in my experiences with foster care. To be sure, my foster parents consistently did their utmost to ensure I received a quality education at home and made certain I succeeded in school. My foster mother endeavoured to ingrain in me a high respect for the intellectual disciplines and the value of perseverance and hard work in general. A love for the inner life of the mind resulted as well as a number of significant milestones which take-on rich meaning when viewed in the context of CAS foster care.
In grade school, I must have appeared to my peers as if I “had it all.” I remember winning the mathematics tournament three years in a row, competing in municipal track-and-field championships, as well as making it to the football team. I also earned a name for myself as a general nuisance to my teachers and vice-principals, as reflected in the countless times I was called to the office for instruction in compliance. This latter theme in my adolescent life was represented in the form of a daily behavioural monitoring log my teachers would send home with me to be read and signed by my foster parents.
In retrospect, I think my need for daily monitoring belied a hidden life of brokenness and latent aggression — a seething rage which would later surface in a conscious relinquishment of Canadian morals and values and a deliberate engagement with a full-throttled young offender career in armed robbery, car theft, drug trafficking, as well as other gang-related activities.
What was behind this experiential contradiction that was my adolescent self? More specifically, how is it that I had managed to migrate from being known as a promising student to being recognized by police and Canadian court officials as a violent young offender? The short answers to these questions can be summed up in two words: existential brokenness. Quite simply, I was angry at Canadian civil society in general, and police officials and judicial authorities in particular, who I blamed for damaging my childhood experience by taking me away from my mother and compelling me to undergo the painful experience of foster care.
It bears mentioning, however, that my foster family who were at times emotionally and even physically punitive, always acted out of love and obligation toward me. I believe they raised me in the best way they knew how, and I hold no grudge against them for the pain they put me through, because I recognize there was no mens rea or guilty intention on their part.
But this spirit of forgiveness I now harbor toward my foster family is actually directly linked to my rehabilitation from criminogenic behaviour, for the reconciliation I presently feel for them is causally connected to a philosophical and religious transformation I experienced as a result of genuine soul-searching that occurred the year I was released from incarceration. That is, through personal introspection, philosophical investigation and prayerful inquest, I came to believe in an all-loving God who calls me to forgive those who have hurt me. And discovering this existential purpose in life is precisely why I am not a recidivist or a “repeat offender,” but became instead a disciple of love and forgiveness, walking in the steps of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. The difference is that now when I experience suffering, I am nonetheless ever rejoicing — for Jesus has overcome the grave, and my future is brighter than tomorrow.
*The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of the Children’s Aid Foundation.