Written by Crystal Groves, a member of our Young People’s Advisory Council and former young person in care.
I first experienced the child welfare system when I was 11 years old. At that time, I came into foster care and was made a Crown ward due to various factors. As far back as I can recall, before going into foster care, home life was certainly not blissful. I was born the middle of three children to a mother with substance abuse issues and mental health problems. My father was a well known drug dealer who often drank and was very abusive towards my mother. When I was about two years old my mother left my father and took my sister and I to live with her new boyfriend. Unfortunately for my sister and I, our mother was not able to break away from the cycle of domestic violence and her next partner was just as abusive if not more so than my father had been towards her. My mother stayed in that relationship for eight years and was still involved with that partner when my sisters and I entered foster care.
Growing-up in the child welfare system was a very dark, lonely and sad experience. My sisters and I were separated into different foster and group homes and we often did not talk to or see each other for months at a time. Shortly after our arrival into foster care our mother passed away. I had a very hard time fitting in or feeling comfortable in the homes that I was living in, and I would often run away. During my time in foster care I was placed multiple foster and group homes. At the age of 16 I moved out on my own.
Shortly after moving out, I started going to the Pape Adolescent Resource Center (PARC). I started to attend weekly drop-in groups, enrolled in the Ambassador Program (high school), and developed supportive relationships with the staff and fellow Crown wards. It was at this point in my life that things began looking up. I found a place where I belonged, where I made lasting friendships, and received the support that I needed to empower myself to forward with my life.
Fast forward a few years and I am now a college graduate with a Diploma in Community and Justice Services. I am currently working towards my Degree in Criminal Justice. I have been blessed to be the recipient of several scholarships from the Children’s Aid Foundation and am currently employed at PARC where I facilitate a weekly group.
Most recently have had the chance to join the Young People’s Advisory Council (YPAC). Joining YPAC has been an amazing opportunity for me to make my experiences growing-up in the child welfare system count for something. This position has created a chance for me to have my voice heard, create change, and to feel like I am contributing to the next generation of youth in the child welfare system. The chance to be part of YPAC is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside the Children’s Aid Foundation and help to fill the gaps and heal the hearts of young people in the child welfare system.