May 14th is Children and Youth in Care Day. Did you know that the province of Ontario is the legal guardian of more than 7000 Children and Youth in the province?
On my 21st birthday, instead of a card, I received what is called a “Letter of Termination” from my legal guardian. It informed me that I could no longer count on the support of my Children’s Aid, and had to try and manage without them. On that day I was also lucky enough to be standing in my home, with my family. Though I knew then I would be okay and I knew I had someone to turn to in that moment, I still got a little choked up.
I thought about the over 7000 still in care who would one day receive this letter on their birthday, after already having been told they can no longer live in their foster or group home by the age of 19. They might not be standing next to anyone. I asked myself, who would buy them their birthday cake that year?
My sister and I were adopted when she was three, and I was fifteen. At first, it wasn’t the plan that I would be adopted, in fact I was told that at that time that I might not even had been able to keep my relationship with my sister. Luckily, the family that decided to adopt her wanted to keep me in her life, wanted me to become a part of their lives. This permanency in my life has led me to have more confidence and stability. I haven’t had to try and get an education while worrying how my sister is doing, or if I would have enough money for rent the next month. I was lucky enough to have a sense of security.
Those who age out of care are not as lucky. Back in 2011/2012, as I and my peers sifted through personal stories and experiences of those who know life in the system and tried to organize it into the My REAL Lifebook report we came up with six reoccurring themes. They are:
- We are Vulnerable
- We are Isolated
- We are left out of our Lives
- No one is really there for us
- Care in unpredictable
- Care ends and we struggle.
“I already had my family taken away once, and it was probably the hardest thing in my life. I didn’t know where else to turn or what I was going to do, and when I turn 21, it’s all going to happen again.”
Excerpt from the My REAL Lifebook Report, Brandon, 20, Youth in Care
This is what a lack of stability and permanency looks like, for 7000 of Ontario’s children and youth who have been removed from their homes by a system which promised them that they would find somewhere better, somewhere safer.
We learned that aging out was about the events leading up to it. Events that have a profound effect on who you are and your life and require the support of ongoing unconditional commitment to work through. Some people, like myself will find this through adoption.
You may have noticed that I have used the word luck several times. It’s because it’s a word I have heard a lot. How lucky, that my family wanted me. How lucky that I got to keep a relationship with my sister. How lucky I am that it worked out this way. For most, it does not work out that way.
I do not believe that this is untrue, I think luck did play a part. I just don’t think it’s what we should be relying on when we talk about the future of over 7000 children and youth in care. Supporting the Adoption Council of Ontario means relying less on luck and more on action. It means keeping the promise that was made to us when we were removed from our homes. So please, invest in building permanency, invest in building family.
“We are, after all, YOUR children, Ontario.”
Excerpt from the My REAL Lifebook Report, Justine, 25, Former Youth in Care
Written By: Wendy Hayes