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.
ACO Youth Liaison
The ACO is thrilled to announce the recent appointment of Brad Gibbons to the newly created, full-time position of Youth Liaison. Within this capacity, Brad will be providing youth, between the ages of 14 and 25 years of age with opportunities to connect, share and support each other through their common journey. To his position, Brad brings his experiences both as an adoptee and as a long-term, active member of the ACO Youth Network.
In early August, Wendy Hayes, Communications Coordinator, sat down with Brad to talk to him about his new role.
What drives you to get involved with young people with living experience in adoption?
I was a child-in-care who was adopted at a young age, therefore I am very passionate about adoption and committed to helping youth who have joined their families through adoption meet and connect with one another. Having access to peers who understand the unique challenges facing adopted youth, as well as some of the resources like those provided by the Youth Network and the ACO, would certainly have been of benefit to me when I was growing up.
Growing up, I had my own struggles with adoption. I felt like nobody was there to listen to me at times. Sometimes I felt I was the only adopted youth on the whole planet. Then I started attending a Youth Group for Adoptees in Barrie. I enjoyed meeting and getting together with other adopted youth for movies, camping, meals together, volunteer work and other activities. Sometimes it helped just being in the presence of others with similar backgrounds. I realized I wasn’t alone; that other youth shared similar experiences to mine and that many of my feelings and needs for these types of connections were normal for adopted youth.
Being a former youth in care and now as an adoptee, I feel that everyone needs contact and connection with others who truly understand how adoptees feel, especially in the teen years. It’s great to have a parent at the end of the day, but youth are able to understand each other with their own lived experience.
Why do you feel that it is important to engage this community?
The youth voice is the one that everyone listens to; I believe the youth voice can move mountains for the better.
From personal experience, as well as discussions with other adoptees, I’ve come to believe/realize that unless someone has lived adoption, they don’t really know how we can sometimes feel alone. It's hard to open up to peers when you have had experiences, feelings and concerns that they cannot relate to.
As the Youth Liaison for the ACO, I want to provide youth with opportunities to connect, socialize and build meaningful relationships with other youth. I support the ACO’s goals which include the provision of services that help youth and their parents feel successful.
What would you like to see ACO’s Youth Network achieve in the next six months?
I want to help develop a thriving youth group for adoptees in the GTA that will meet the needs of those who join -- a safe space where they can meet others, connect, get involved in different activities and learn about some of the different resources available to them. I want to help youth have a voice in speaking out about their needs and making change. The youth voice is the one that everyone listens to; I believe the youth voice can move mountains for the better.
I am also hoping to provide support for the creation of other support groups, for adopted youth, around the province.
How can parents create a space for their young people to encourage them to express themselves and get involved?
Parents can introduce their youth to programs, like the Youth Network, and events, such as the ACO’s FunWalk Both provide youth with opportunities to connect to other youth and build relationships.
Interested in getting involved with the ACO Youth Network?
Contact Brad at email@example.com or 1-877-ADOPT 20 ext. 2999
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