Written by Erine Roberts, a CAFDN ambassador and former young person in care.
The following points were written by a former young person in care to reflect why it is important for us to support vulnerable youth across Canada’s child welfare system.
1. Overcame Adversity.
For many youth in care there are countless reasons that they have become acquainted with the child welfare system. For some, it is a result of abuse, neglect, relinquishment of guardianship, death of a parent and countless other reasons. As a result many young people who enter into care have traumas and a wide array of problems that had to be addressed in order for them to get to the point they are in their life. By donating and supporting initiatives specifically geared towards helping youth in care, you are further reaffirming all of their hard work and the progress they have made within the life. Though it may not appear to be monumental, any progress is better than no progress at all.
2. Act as a surrogate Parent.
For many young people currently involved with child welfare there is often a lack of consistency in regards to presence of ‘permanent’ parental figures. For some children, their parents might be deceased, no longer in the picture, have had their parental rights revoked and the list goes on. After entering in to child welfare, many children are placed into group homes; or in juvenile facilities as a result of overcrowding; as well as constantly being moved from home to home due to other mitigating factors. This creates a situation where children do not have the opportunities and in some cases the ability to bond with a parent figure or even lack proper parental figures in their lives. By contributing and taking a vested interest in the lives of children and youth in the child welfare (foster care system) you are inadvertently assuming a parental role of the lives of children who lack parents.
3. Gap in financial resource.
Social service funding has decreased drastically over the years resulting in substantial budget cuts within the child welfare system. This has resulted in organisations such as the Children’s Aid Society having to focus and tunnel a vast percentage of their allocated finances into providing solely the basic necessities to children in care. So opportunities for enrichment via means of extracurricular, summer camps and so forth have dwindled or become obsolete. For many kids these opportunities would be a life saver to help them overcome their abuse, to make them more social and comfortable in their own skin and overall help youth in care to flourish and grow. Since the resources are not there then little to no emphasis is placed on these kinds of enrichment opportunities. By donating and taking a vested interest in a child, the opportunities and experiences that would not have been possible before can now become possible. In some instances these opportunities have saved the life of a young person.
4. Help change the statistic and end the stigma.
In society there are many statistics surrounding youth in care and people who are part of the child welfare system. There are underlying societal beliefs that youth in care are deviant; have little to no value; are a drain on resources but most importantly, will never amount to much. Many youth who have gone through the foster care system end up homeless; pregnant; not finishing high school; incarcerated; addicted to various substances; in poverty and so on. Though the situation appears to be grim it is imperative to recognizes that these are a result of other factors. Some of these factors include things such as abuse and trauma that has not been dealt with professionally; re-victimization in the child welfare system; inability to form attachments due to lack of stability in a child’s formative years; mental illness; internalization of the self-fulfilling prophecy and many others. By donating to and once again taking a child under your wing and showing love, affection, as well as having faith in them then you can help end the bleak prognosis on the life outcomes of children in child welfare. Furthermore you can help change the statistics by allowing them opportunities and giving them life tools to be become successful in life.
5. All children have value.
Whatever people think about children in child welfare, especially people who have children, they generally use a ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dichotomy. The belief that children in child welfare are all deviant and problematic while their own child is not has become the mantra for society. Though there is nothing wrong with seeing the world through that particularly lens, it does devalue and diminish the lived experiences of all the children in child welfare. Yes, we all have dreams, hopes and aspirations just as every other child does, but for us there are many barriers and obstacles to overcome before we even have a chance to strive to achieve our goals. Simple things that people take for granted such as a hug can have dismal and hurtful connotations for us. Though we lash out, get moody and angry, curse or act like spoiled problematic kids it does not mean we have less value. For all children in care there are a substantial amount of demons that we must face in order to be able to function on a daily basis, this coupled with life traumas as well as various other factors all play a role in shaping the people we have the potential to become. The more people rely on stereotypes, prejudice and their subconscious belief that we are not as valuable as other children, the less likely we are able to achieve our goals and dreams. Yes we want to be and have the potential to be lawyers, doctors, nurses, musicians, teachers, parents, architects, engineers and so many other great things. The one thing stopping us is societies refusal to accept that we could be all of those things. Your monetary donations as well as your support of the Children’s Aid Foundation is stating that you believe that children in care are just as valuable as any other child and therefore deserve to have the same opportunities as well as some extra support in order to get us to the point that people in our age cohort are.