*Pictured above: Stacey’s children and foster children waiting for Santa.
My name is Stacey, and becoming a foster parent changed my life. In October of 2007, my husband and I decided to enroll in the required training and home study program that would allow us to become foster parents. Already parents to two, young biological children, we wanted to open our home to other youth in need of a safe, stable, and supportive environment. Ten months after the initial training started, we were ready to welcome our first foster child into our home.
Through the years, we’ve cared for many children, and encountered the residual pain that many have endured due to past traumas in their lives. To see these young people who have been through such challenging ordeals is truly heartbreaking. Many of these kids, who have become incredibly fearful because of their early experiences, enter foster care and struggle to make meaningful connections. It breaks my heart that they miss out on building self-esteem and fully embracing their warm, stable home environments. As the caregiver, I want to be their rock; these kids need people like you and me to depend on.
Approximately 67,000 youth across Canada are living in foster care, kinship care (extended family), group care, and treatment facilities.
In my experience, the holidays can be particularly challenging for youth living in care. Most of us want to be with our loved ones during the festive season, but it’s just not a possibility for these kids. This can create a variety of difficulties; from feelings of sadness, confusion, and depression, to feeling completely isolated and alone. Whatever holiday traditions these youth have experienced in the past their routines have changed, and as foster parents, we can’t recreate these experiences exactly as they remember them.
There are 30,000 children and youth eligible for adoption within Canada’s child welfare system. Despite this, only about 2,000 are adopted each year.
Opportunities like attending the Children’s Aid Foundation’s Holiday Season Celebration are incredible for youth in care. Our whole family looks forward to it each year, and it’s such a wonderful experience. Beyond the amazing food, activity stations, and festive activities, the event allows us to connect with other foster families, including foster parents, former youth in care, and sibling groups. It’s truly a supportive environment and great way for our family to connect with others who truly understand them. It’s challenging for them to find situations where they relate to others and there’s no need to explain; there’s a common understanding. It’s experiences like these that, I believe, are part of the healing process.
Exposure to trauma is almost universal amongst children and youth in the child welfare system.
Youth in care need your support to help them reach their full potential. With your contribution to the Children’s Aid Foundation, young people who have experienced abuse, neglect, and abandonment can access enriching programs and opportunities that give them the power to build their confidence and thrive. It takes a strong, stable community to raise a child, and youth who have been removed from their families are at a significant disadvantage. From funding programs like invaluable counseling and therapy sessions to providing tutoring and sports activities and access to camp — initiatives the government is often unable to fund – the Foundation is truly able to support this deserving population.