Written by Arthur Gallant, @ArthurGallant27, CAF ambassador and former young person in care.
I’m frequently asked to describe what it was like growing up in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. What it was like to like to live in 16 different group homes and foster homes scattered throughout Southern Ontario over 9 years. What it was like living with over a hundred different youth and having dozens of caregivers (mostly child and youth workers). The one word I use to describe is this: loneliness.
Despite constantly being surrounded by so many different people, I constantly felt a sense of loneliness because my situation seemed so unreal. I had no connection to the people I was living with aside from our unique circumstances.
The way I was living didn’t feel normal.
Fast forward to leaving CAS when I was 18. I thought the loneliness would fade away when it actually got worse. I quickly realized I had a connection to the people I initially thought I had no connection to. I always wondered what happened to some of the youth I lived with and where they ended up.
I had a low self-esteem and didn’t believe in my ability to succeed. I wondered if other youth like me felt the same way. Were they still stuck in their tracks? Were they able to move on with their lives and somehow try and move on from their childhood? Regardless of what other youth were doing, I knew I needed to try and move no matter how much self doubt I had.
I’m currently a full-time paralegal student and the loneliness has returned. A couple weeks ago I attended the Children’s Aid Foundation Recognition Night in which over 200 youth just like me received their scholarship. I also got to meet a couple dozen former youth in care who graduated. Immediately that loneliness faded away.
I got to speak with other youth (including others who I lived with back in the day) and we shared our struggles with each other but also our stories of success. Those I spoke with shared the same experiences of isolation in which they felt like they faced an uphill battle as they tried to better themselves.
Support for youth post-Children’s Aid is minimal and this is nothing new. I believe had I been able to meet youth facing the same challenges as me sooner I would have been a graduate by now.
Regardless, I am grateful for the ongoing support I receive from the Children’s Aid Foundation and I am grateful for the new connections I made at Recognition Night. I have 7 months left of school and I have a lot of people rooting for me.
The biggest motivator of all is knowing I will be standing on stage as a graduate at Recognition Night 2015.