International Youth Day (IYD) is observed annually on August 12. It is meant as an opportunity for governments and others to draw attention to youth issues worldwide.
Nathan, Wendy and Brad,
Youth Leadership Team for the 2015 ACO Youth Network Retreat
Recently, we had the privilege of hiring Brad Gibbons, long time Youth Network member into the newly created Youth Liaison position. As International Youth Day (IYD) is recognized on August 12, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to introduce him to you! Communications Coordinator, Wendy Hayes, sat down with him to talk about his new role and the importance of connections.
What drives you to get involved with young people with living experience in adoption?
I was a former adopted youth. I’m very passionate about adoption and helping youth be supported and connect with other youth. That’s why I got engaged with this job because it gave me the opportunity to come and help out other youth and connect them with resources that I could have used when I was growing up.
Why do you feel that it is important to engage this community?
I started to realize that I’m not the only one that has all these different struggles and it’s normal to feel the ways that you feel as an adopted youth.
I feel like everyone needs the connection. I don’t feel like everyone understand adoption unless they’ve lived adoption. I feel like nobody gets a youth better than another youth. So for me, that’s really important, to be able to provide that youth to youth relationship.
When I was growing up I felt there weren't enough resources, there weren't enough ways to connect with other youth. Through finding the youth groups in Barrie that ACO was connected to I was able to meet with other youth and impact them as well as they impacted me. Today as the Youth Liaison at the ACO I’m able to make that experience with the adopted youth.
I believe the ACO is about helping youth and helping parents be successful, especially during and after adoption, providing supports to making adoption successful. Without being able to provide those experiences and meet those needs adoptions won’t be successful.
What would you like to see ACO’s Youth Network achieve in the next six months?
I want to make sure there is a thriving youth group in the GTA that youth are able to come to that’s there no matter what. If somebody goes away, there is another person to take care of everything. It’s not just going to fall off the radar for these youth. I want something where they’ve got a safe space that they can come to and meet up with friends and youth and connect and get involved with different resources.
I just want the ACO to be able to provide the needs to those youth that they want.
As someone who has the living experience with adoption, what does it mean for you to engage with this community?
I realized growing up that I had my own struggles. I felt like nobody was there to listen to me. I was the only adopted youth on the whole planet. Then through meeting other youth at the youth group and being able to connect, I started to realize that I’m not the only one that has all these different struggles and it’s normal to feel the ways that you feel as an adopted youth.
For me being a former youth in care and being an adopted youth I can understand better that people need to be connected to understand that they’re not the only ones and not to feel alone and to have those supports.
It’s great to have a parent at the end of the day, but they’re not always able to understand the adopted youth like adopted youth are able to understand that experience.
The focus for IYD this year is ‘dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace’. How do you feel young people who have the living experience with adoption can contribute to the focus for IYD this year?
Speaking out about what their needs are. A lot of people are very quiet about what their needs are. They don’t get involved because they’re scared to get involved or they’re nervous or something is holding them back. But without them talking about it and getting their voice heard nothing is gonna ever change, it’s just going to be parents talking to youth. I feel like the youth voice is the one that everyone listens to at the end of the day, so the youth voice can change things and move mountains for the better.
You said something that I really appreciated about parents speaking on behalf of youth. This comes from a place of wanting to advocate for your child which is important but how can parents create a space for their young people to encourage them to express themselves and get involved?
Bringing them out to events. Especially like the ACO’s FunWalk where there’s so many different people including adopted, foster, different organizations and people who just care about youth who aren’t directly connected to adoption. It’s a great opportunity for them to connect and that’s it’s great to be able to reach out for parents and youth and build those relationships.
Interested in getting involved with the ACO Youth Network?
Contact Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-ADOPT 20 ext. 2999
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