When I officially aged out of care, I was 21 years old and in my second month of my final year at Queen's University. While most students in my position were planning for graduation, applying to grad school, and celebrating their final year, I was about to lose all the supports I had known since I was 15. Although I had known for a while this day was vastly approaching, when it arrived, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though I had created a support system for myself, aging out of care without a permanent family was nothing short of terrifying. Throughout my time in the care system, I was always seen as "resilient" and "intelligent" which seemed to mean to my Children's Aid Society that a family was not in the cards for me, because I had the ability “to make it on my own”. They celebrated my accomplishments, and considered me their “success story", but failed to ask me who was there when I aced an exam, who's house I went to over the holidays, or who would be in the audience for my graduation. Throughout my life, I always thought that I was too old to be adopted and that no one would want an “older” person, however, my life does not come to an “end” when I turn 18 or 21, it is simply the beginning of countless moments that would be better shared with a family by my side.
I first became involved with the Adoption Council of Ontario in 2016, when I was hired as their summer student, and although my official contract came to an end that summer, I have continued to be an active member in this amazing organization. I remember when “Never Too Late” was a concept on a piece of paper crafted by a vision our amazing manager had which was that “every person in and from care has a right to a family regardless of their age”. As someone who aged out care without a forever family, I jumped at the opportunity of becoming a member of the Never Too Late team and contributing in any way I could. In my own words, I would say that the purpose of this project is to help those of any age find permanent connections that will last a LIFETIME, not just through life’s ups but more importantly the downs. A promise that no matter what, these supports will be there through all the twists and turns that life has to offer. I consider this project to be revolutionary because it is filling in the gaps within a very broken system and trying to solve an issue that has been overlooked for years. I have always found it baffling that the government expects young people who have survived all types of trauma to thrive without any supports in place, when we live in a society where 40 percent of those aged 20-29 live at home with their parents. As if coming into care, and surviving care is not enough, we are then left to fend with what little devices we have been given (if any at all) at the ripe age of 21 (even younger in some cases). The Never too late team seems to be the first group to recognize that everyone needs support long after 21 and that no one should be forced to make it on their own.
Another purpose of this project (although there are many) is to eradicate the many misconceptions that society has in regards to adoption and foster care. One being that once you turn 18 years old, you are no longer in need of permanent connections. We are social beings, which simply put means that we are always in need of someone to rely on, regardless of age. Another misconception is that those from care are “broken” and “damaged”. As humans we have both strengths and weaknesses, regardless of whether we have been in care or not. However, our weaknesses or what are seen as “weaknesses” does not make us any less worthy of a family. Another big misconception is this idea that those who are of an older age do not want to be adopted. This is simply untrue, there are tons of us, (myself included) who have exited the care system who would love to have permanency but the opportunity to obtain it has never been presented. A final misconception is that adopting someone who is older may be less appealing because the parents believe they have missed out on pivotal moments in a person’s life. Whether an individual is 18 or 40 years old, there will always be pivotal/special moments that would be better shared with family members (weddings, birth of children, holidays, etc).
As we are nearing the end of 2018, after almost a year of meetings and countless hours of hard work, we have officially set a date for the first “parent” training. I have been told that there are people who have already signed up and have expressed interest in becoming a permanent person for someone who has aged out of care, which has led me to feel both excited and hopeful. In the coming months, we will be strengthening the parent curriculum as well as developing a curriculum for those who have aged out of care who are interested in finding permanency. I have high hopes that this project will help many find permanency, and who knows, maybe through all of this I too will find my forever family.
Author: Chloe, Member of NTL Team