JADA first entered the care system at the age of five, due to her parents’ struggle with substance abuse and mental illness. Moving between foster homes and a kinship placement with her aunt, she returned to live with her parents between the ages of seven and nine, until she needed to be removed, once again. This time, she moved back in with her aunt, where she remained. Forming a close bond with her extended family, JADA grew up in a loving, supportive home environment, while maintaining a relationship with her biological parents. Now 19, and a student at Glendon University, JADA is working towards a degree in political science, with the support of a Foundation scholarship. She hopes to become an officer with the RCMP and get involved with politics.
Read her story:
*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 the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.
“Kids need financial support to take them to the next step, and many youth from care don’t come from privileged families. They shouldn’t be set back in life because of their childhoods or what happened to them; they need that extra help to get there. And, they deserve it.”
“I grew up with my parents, but they struggled with substance abuse challenges as well as mental illness. They weren’t fit to take care of me or my siblings, so the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) became involved. My extended family was aware of this and they stepped-in once CAS became involved. I was only five, so my memories of that time aren’t crystal clear, but my extended family saved my life. Although I initially lived in a foster home, my aunt enrolled in foster parent training and her family stepped-in to become my immediate family. Even before I officially moved in with my aunt, I was referring to her as my mom, and her kids (my cousins) as my siblings. My aunt made sure I was healthy and cared for, while my siblings made the house a fun and loving place to be. Never once did I question if I was accepted; I just knew I was.”
“After first entering care, we were placed back with my parents for about two years, and that was when the worst stuff happened. It was mostly, again, due to substance abuse challenges and mental illness. It got to the point where kettles were burning on the stove with no water in them, and it became dangerous for me and my siblings to be living there. We moved back in with my aunt and that’s where we stayed.”
“I always felt that my aunt was my ‘mom’, and my biological mother was my ‘mother’. I made that distinction in my head; my mother gave me life, and I appreciate her, but my mom is my caregiver and is my nurturer. My aunt never discredited my biological mother, she always said ‘why not have two?’ She was never trying to replace anybody, and that’s really important for me now.”
“I know a lot of kids from care struggle to move forward. Synchronized swimming made me feel prestigious, and it’s a hard sport — 30 hours a week of training. I liked that because it’s a ‘no excuse’ sport, and it made me realize that there was no reason why I couldn’t excel. It taught me that there are no excuses, and that I wasn’t different from anybody else, [despite my past]. And, my club saw how much I loved the sport, and was able to help me out financially, because it’s such an expensive sport.”
“I feel fortunate because bad things were happening around me, but not necessarily to me. I grew-up with one t-shirt and pair of pants, going to food banks, but I was always a happy kid and had my aunt right around the corner when things got really bad. I once had nothing and now I feel really fortunate. I think I was a unique case with CAS because I had a stable, supportive extended family, and I’ve never felt like a child of the system. I’m proud to have been someone who grew up in care. My biological parents weren’t able to take care of me, but they always loved me. So, I never felt ashamed. I think I’ve seen a lot of different perspectives.”
“I live in a household with six kids, so without the support of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, I don’t think I’d be able to attend university. Access to education breaks the cycle; it allows youth to figure out their own paths and separate themselves from the struggles of their parents. Education is so important for that; the discipline they learn and it also helps to build confidence. Kids need financial support to take them to the next step, and many youth from care don’t come from privileged families. They shouldn’t be set back in life because of their childhoods or what happened to them; they need that extra help to get there. And, they deserve it.”
“I’m currently in school studying political science, and my main goal is to become a police officer. I’m taking French, so hopefully I can work with the RCMP. I’d love that. And, I think my background has offered me a different perspective so that I can maybe connect with people on a different level. I’m also interested in politics.”