CHANTAL, 25, is an advocate for youth in and from care and now directly supports youth in care through her role as a child protection worker, with the same agency that had once been responsible for her care. Entering foster care at the age of 12 due to physical abuse and her mother’s struggle with mental health, she eventually entered kinship care before transitioning to independent living at 16. Struggling to make ends meet, CHANTAL relied heavily on the support of her social worker, but was eventually able to find stability and, with the support of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada funding, achieve a post-secondary education.
Read her story below:
*The opinions and views expressed in this article are that of the youth in profile, and not necessarily reflective of the official opinion or position of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.
“There was a point where I went to the bank to cash my cheque, and the banker asked me if I worked at the Children’s Aid Society. I said ‘no’, and she said ‘you don’t look like a kid from care’. What does that mean, you know?”
“When I was 12, I entered a foster home. Events leading up to that were related to my mother’s mental health and physical abuse from her boyfriend. It was an unsafe living environment. I didn’t really want to attach myself to family; the foster family I was with did things with their biological children, which I wasn’t involved in. So, I found that hard.”
“My grandparents became my kinship home; I lived with them for a year, but I think the generation gap was difficult. They didn’t understand that I wanted to be with my friends and stay out later. So, I ended up moving out on my own at 16. It was difficult to even get an apartment. I was emancipated when I was 14, and then I was on Extended Care and Maintenance funding. I had a wonderful social worker, who I still talk to, and my grandparents co-signed an apartment for me. It was the only way to get one.”
“I never felt weird because I was part of the child welfare system or because I lived on my own at 16. There was a point where I went to the bank to cash my cheque, and the banker asked me if I worked at the Children’s Aid Society. I said ‘no’, and she said ‘you don’t look like a kid from care’. What does that mean, you know? There are lots of negative stereotypes around youth from care in general. Even though there have been a lot of challenges in growing up in care, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of Children’s Aid.”
“Having my own child now, I feel like there was always this [stereotype], like ‘oh you were abused, so you’re going to abuse your own kids’, and I feel like because I was in care I feel even more protective of my child. I mean, I’ve seen that happen, but there are people like myself who can break it. I felt like I was expected to be in trouble.”
“Even having one, consistent person who is there, and you can reach out to and not feel that fear of judgment [is so important]; it’s like having a parental figure and knowing that they’re there for you to count on. Often, youth from care don’t have that. My social worker was a safe space; I never felt judged by her or that I was going to get in trouble. She was able to steer me in the right direction.”
“I just completed my Bachelor’s degree at Western University, and would like to work at the Children’s Aid Society. I had a worker who was wonderful and she’s been such a great, life-altering support. I want to be able to model what she did with me for other youth.”
“The scholarships I received did reduce my student debt. Not having that money likely would’ve meant times I wouldn’t have been able to eat or pay rent or hydro; I’ve been fortunate enough that my bills have always been paid. It gave me a sense of [comfort], especially coming from a home where our hydro was cut off and money was always an issue. Knowing that I couldn’t call my parents and say I need help’ [was a motivator].”
“I always knew I wanted to pursue education and be a social worker, and I don’t really know where that came from because no one else in my family went to university or college. I never didn’t want to go school. I think just wanting to have a better future laid out for my own family, knowing I wouldn’t have the familial support and children’s aid funding, was a drive. Having scholarships was so incredibly helpful. It meant I could keep going to school. I started waitressing when I turned 15 and I worked every weekend, which I actually think kept me out of trouble. I became very self-sufficient that way.”
“I understand now, as an adult, that [parents often struggle with] mental health issues and addictions; it’s more a systemic issue than it is just personal, individual problems. If we could look at the bigger picture, rather than just generalizing it, would be good.
“I’m so thankful that the Foundation exists. I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have, two university degrees, without that support. I think it will help me in finding a job and really what I want to do.”