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Adults who were in care

2006

Currently I am working with a fourteen year old boy who says over and over “How can I amount to anything! All youth who are in Care die or end up on the streets!”  So in an attempt to show him that this simply is not true I am reaching out for true life stories of adults who over came all the obstacles of being in the system and are now successful. If you know any good examples, I think this might help him to see that there is something to wish for.

Jillian Richman
Edmonton
...


Now let's see ...

Anthony Di cosmo, Marylin Monroe, James Dean, John Lennon, Eddie Murphy, Cher and Ice.T were all in foster care and had difficult childhoods. David Pelzer is probably one of the best known people who in fact is famous because of his resilience in the face of the reasons that brought him in to care. He has written extensively about this.

Ozwald Boateng the famous black British fashion designer widely credited with introducing Savile Row tailoring to a new generation. The first tailor to stage a catwalk show in Paris, Boateng's many clients include Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Keanu Reeves and Mick Jagger. And guess what, he grew up in a Barnardo’s children’s home in the UK.

David Akinsanya is a highly acclaimed Journalist for the BBC; he also grew up in state care. He speaks passionately and publicly about his experiences in care and how they have shaped the person he has become. See http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-1002-akinsanya.html

But hey, it’s not all about being rich and famous and there are few of us who will be able to aspire to the dizzy heights of showbiz personalities, athletes etc whether in care as a child or not.

I am sure the list is endless, last but not least is me. The best way to predict the future is to invent it!

Neil McMillan
...

Hi Jillian,

Have a look at the work of McKenzie, R.B. (2003) The impact of orphanages on alumni's lives and assessment of their childhoods. Children and Youth Services Review, 25, 703-753.

He is looking at the orphanage system, which for the most part pre-dates and evolved into the state care system by about mid-20th century. Orphanages were often run by what we would now call "faith-based service providers". McKenzie conducted interviews with several graduates of that care system and his results are in fact quite positive.

While it is true that in my own research on adolescents using street youth services here in Toronto we learned that the best single predictor of being a street youth is having graduated from the care system, this is only one side of the coin. While many street youth were in care, it does not follow that all youth in care end up on the street. Remember the old logic exercise - all cats are animals but not all animals are cats. People at the Youth in Care Network in Ottawa and the similar group Who Cares Scotland in Glasgow would be good points of contact for follow-up on this for the boy you are working with. A quick Google will lead to the link.

My own Grandmother and her three sisters grew up in that care system, which I actually didn't realize until a few years before she died (at age 92), when she sat me down to tell me her story. She did quite well in life, becoming a teacher, raising a family, helping her grandchildren with their homework.

Take care,
Francis Hare
...

Hi Jillian,

I look after SOS Children's Villages in Botswana as national director. My boss, in Zimbabwe, is an ex SOS boy, now a qualified accountant, who is the Regional Director of SOS in Southern Africa. One of his staff has a masters degree and an MBA, is the IT specialist there, and is an orphan in care all her life at SOS Ethiopia. We, in Botswana, have six of our youths in University and one is a fourth year dentistry student. We have two bushmen girls (Basarwa San) who won scholarships to Disneyworld and Germany and who are now working in the Hotel industry in England. We have soldiers, a policeman, an electrician, a radiologist and many other successes.We believe our success rate is about 68% if you define success as independent working young adults. Don't give up hope! Being "in care" and being in "an institution" is often an advantage over the many malfunctioning biological families, and certainly provides more opportunities for success than "home based care". We have judokas who are representing the country simply because they were "in care' and had dedicated volunteer instructors who trained them!

Regards,
Derek James
...

Jillian,
I can give you a true life story, mine. If you'd like to e-mail me your e-mail address, I will be more than happy to share with you. Just to give you an update, I am so thankful that the CAS was there for me (although I could not appreciate it at the time), I decided to also foster teens, go to college, go to university, etc. Let me know if there's anymore I can do.

 Diane Rapkoski
...

Give me a call. I am a 26 year old Adult who used to be in care and now I am a Social Worker. I was also represented on television in October for being in care as well.
Lacey-Dawn Toronchuk,
640-6862
I am from edmonton as well, I am currently working with Bosco Homes.
...

Hi:

I am 26 years old and come from a family of 11 children. Most of us ended up in care as children. I have a twin sister and we grew up in care separately. The odds were against us right from the start. We were told we were not going to amount to much. I know people assumed that.

All 11 of us are alive and well today. A lot of us are married or in long term relationships. A lot of us have families. A lot of us are educated past high school. A few of us own or have own businesses. A few of us own our own houses. Do we still have problems? Of course! Who doesn't!!!

As for me, I am in my last year of the Child and Youth Care Counselling Program in Calgary. I am about to buy my own home. I have people in my life who are truly incredible, who support and love me for who I am. The very agency who raised me and provided support workers who believed in me and programs that I took advantage of to gain the maximum amount of knowledge I possibly could, is the very agency in which I do my practicum at today. The possibilities for my life are endless. I refuse to give up or become a negative statistic for the system. Do I think the Child Welfare System was perfect in my families case? Absolutely not. But do I feel that the people who came from that system are the very people who have shaped my life today? Unequivoqally yes.

Thank goodness for certain people in this system who do take the time to step forward and choose to love a child and believe in them for who they are today. It is the people in our lives who make us who we are. Jillian tell your youth that the possibilities for his life are truly unimaginable. Tell him that no matter what crappy situation he comes from and could not control, he has full control of his future and how it ends up. Let him know that there are many people who come from the system and end up becoming successful and well adjusted in life.

Keep going, there is so much more.

Charlene Parks
...

Hi Jillian,

We have some success stories, if you write to me directly I will send you some info.
Kind regards
Werner van der Westhuizen
Village Director
SOS Children’s Villages, Port Elizabeth
...

Hi Jillian,

I've worked with youth who go on to responsible adult occupations e.g. paid employment; joining the military; attending and completing university, etc.. There are lots of success stories for this youth to hear if he's ready to listen.

I wonder, however, what experiences he may be basing his statements on... perhaps he has a parent, a sibling or someone else he was close to, who died on the street or who may be at risk. We all know individuals whose lives include streetlife and it's associated risks, some of them grew up in care and some not. The past does not dictate our future, our choices in the here and now decide where we will go and how we will get there.

I'm thinking he may need to feel some control over the direction his life can take. Lance Armstrong's book, It's not about the bike is not "just" about his journey with cancer. This may be a book you would like to lend to or read with your youth. The essence of the book is the importance of hope and belief in ones' self.
Best of luck to both of you. I ran into a youth I worked with at least 9 years ago, when I was shopping yesterday. I didn't see her, she approached me. I was very moved by her words upon seeing me. This young woman is working, has a family and plans for her future. The young girl I knew was still in evidence, but the woman she had grown into had a strong face. I know her journey has been challenging, but she's here, living her life.
Lorna
...

Hi Jillian, you might connect this boy with the national "youth in care network" which is comprised of youth in care between 14 and 24 years old. Their website is www.youthincare.ca with a link to contact them. They will probably be able to offer support and help him to get connected with youth in care who are doing well or being pro-active.

 Good luck

 Kim Caldwell
...

There are so many wonderful successes of children who have been in care. It sounds like this child has a deeper problem that his beliefs about those in care. Some lessons in resilience and inspiration and motivation might help him. Have him do some research in successful people who have been in care might open his eyes.

Sincerely,
May Cook
...

I would like to add to this thread. I was in Care since I was 6 months old, bouncing from one home to the other. I don’t ever remember living with my biological parents and only saw my dad once and my mom a few times. I have done well and did not end up on the streets or die. Here I am counselling Children and Youth from families where domestic violence occurs. I have a love for life and love the outdoors too and do a lot of biking, hiking and skiing. I am stubborn some people will say and I believe it has been my determination and strong will and zest for life that has seen me through.

Lita Biron
...

14 might be a bit young yet? But there are a lot of good books out there written for youth by successful adults who were in the system. Check out your local book store and ask your boss or administrator for funds to purchase a book.

Mister Home Chef
...

I have been looking at survey's on Edmonton's homeless and most of them were in care and I was also informed that most of the people that are in jail were raised in care. And many of them, are second or third generation child welfare involvement, their parents were in care and it is kind of scary to see that kind of a cycle. I thought homelessness and incarceration were due to something else, but they were in care, removed from their families, that was the underlying theme.

I have met a few people who were in care and are now adults, but they have emotional scars big time. I would say there was a lot of damage. Two people I know have left their children off and on, with their spouses and then left thier children in temporary care. They have constant problems and never seem to have a fulfilling life or get it together permanently.

Another woman I know had several divorces and accused each of her ex-husbands of sexually abusing her children or other children and "thinks" everyone is sexually abused. I was surprised at realizing she has been saying this for years. I believed her in the beginning, but now??? I'm not even sure. And another one tells horror stories of what the foster parents would say about their biological parents, saying they were dirty and neglectful and she was better off with them. I was wondering myself if there were success stories? And did anyone become fully functioning adults?

There is one man that had a foster family and they were good to him, he went to university and is always working. But he is constantly moving and getting into different relationships. He has not stayed with one woman for more than a few years. He doesn't stay with any of his children. Another older woman is ashamed of who she is and tries to be something she is not. This is a sad case because she cannot even see the damage done to her and I feel sorry for her.

There is another girl I knew since she was fourteen. Her mother and I were friends, she adopted me as an aunt, when she returned home at age 14. Her mother did drugs for years and quit and wanted her children back. So she tried with her daughter. Her sons were older. She had such a sadness in her, telling me stories about her children playing at the park. And the time her step mother called children's services. She'd also tell me stories of how stressed out she felt. It was sad. I thought there should have been counselling and family support then. But she escaped by drugs and finally 10 years later try to reclaim her children. That was before I got into child and youth care. They never did resolve their differences. But I still keep in contact with her, she calls me on her birthdays and when she passed her grades and when she got her first place and finally when she had her first baby. she told me many stories, she said it was like you could never unpack and be at home because you never knew when you would have to leave.

Another woman that stayed in shelters and was homeless, was a beautiful woman, but she had such low self esteem and thought of herself as worthless. That was sad. We talked alot again. I don't if I'm just nosey or what? But she said she was raised in foster homes and the same thing she felt like she could never unpack and never feel settled, there was no real place she could call home. She never kept in contact with her foster family or anyone and doesn't know her family of origin and is now homeless. And she is in her mid forties, never got an education or a job or a home. or things we take for granted.

It makes me wonder if taking children and putting them in care was ever a good idea. There obviously needs to be a change in something. But I would like to meet successful adults as well...That is really insightful of him though....Where did he learn to think like that? Or what him think that? That's interesting.
That would be an excellent research project. "What happened to the children in care when they grew up?" and have a big write up and a survey of all the people who grew up in care and where and where they ended up.

And I hope you find you find successful stories and what was the root cause and where did this happen?
That would be so interesting.

Peace.

Anita Wright
...

Hi Jillian,

I have overcome extreme obstacles in my life and I am still dealing with these issues today. As a small summary, My father had died when I was 3 and my mother had turned to alcohol and drug abuse. In turn I was neglected, by age 8 I was being left on my own with my 6 year old brother to be looked after. My mother had countless boyfriends and my brother endured the physical abuse (and perhaps sexual abuse - he is 20 and still wont disclose). We were put into care after family had turned my mother in, and lived life sometimes separated. We eventually moved into a family with 2 older teenagers. Often abused by them and seen as an outsider, not apart of any family. We survived, even though I was raped when I was a teenager, had an abortion (from a different experience) and my own alcohol and drug abuse. I now work as a Child and Youth Counsellor in Calgary and am aspiring to be a musician. It took lots to be where I am, but I asked for help and support and that's why I am the person I am.

What our youth have to consider is that we are people too and we have our own shit (excuse the language) to deal with as well. We are not perfect and horrible things come along that we have to work out too. Perhaps subtly reminding him of this will help him to understand and hope. I know I didn't live my whole life out of care but perhaps looking up famous figures could help him put things into perspective. I heard the Rock lived a remarkable life, Oprah is a good example, and there's that new movie out with Will Smith (pursuit of happiness), anything inspiring could lift his spirits.

Hope that helps!

Lindsay McIvor
Calgary
...

Hi Jillian;

I am sure you will receive a huge amount of emails regarding this.

I am an ex-client of Alberta Children's Service. I was placed in care under a Temporary Guardianship Order when I was 14. Through all of this all I wanted was to get my high school diploma and get my own place. At 16 I moved out of the group home and went into McMann's Supported Independent Living Program. I was very lucky as I was resilient and I had several people who influence me in a positive way. I attended counseling while in the group home and completed psychological and IQ tests. The therapist said, "Sandra, you are either going to be a brilliant criminal or a productive member of society." It turned out my IQ was quite high. I also had a great youth worker, Cheryl Berube.

Today, I work in the Child and Youth Care Field and I am a supervisor of a Pregnant and Parenting Teen Home. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care and I think that I have been able to be a productive member of society. I own my own home, my own vehicle, I have two great kids and a partner who is always by my side.

Not all youth in Care die or end up on the streets. I was lucky in who I chose to walk through life with. Your youth will have very different lives depending on which road he chooses. There are so many opportunities for him, but only he can grab them. I would also encourage him to find someone who can be a mentor, who is willing to stand by him during his journey. I have two youth in my life. One, a male is 20 and has been in my life since he was 12. The other is a girl who is now 19, I have had the joy of being her friend since she was 16. I have helped them with their battles and shared in their moments of joy.

My road hasn't always been easy, but when I look back I can see that many of the choices and chances I had brought me where I am today. I am an ex-kid in care and I have amounted to something.

Best of Wishes,
Sandra Williams
...

Jillian see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerry_Katona
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Morrissey

Aidan Lynch
...

Jillian,

My fathers family of seven was seperated and put in to care after their mother died and their abusive alcoholic father left them. Their father died a drunk on "skidrow" in Vancouver. Three boys went to a foster home. Yes one of them did die in a boating accident white water rafting. The other two are great and have healthy families of their own.

One girl went to a family and still has contact with them even though she lied and said they abused her and left at a young age. She wanted to be with her brothers...people make mistakes. She is still alive and has travelled all over the world.

The baby went to a variety of homes and was abused. Eventually at seven he went to my Grandmothers sister and lived there. He has had some emotional struggles but he owns his own business and is MUCH loved.

My dad and a sister went out on their own and have been happily married to their spouses for 25+ years.
They are all alive, nobody has lived on the street and they are all connected even after being seperated. Nobody feels sorry for themselves and even talk about their experiences. There is much love in my family and lots of tolerance for mistakes.

I am a youth worker myself...and I have had 5 youth die and was very sad and two are in jail. But I have had friends and family die too, this is life in care or out of care. Most of the youth I worked with (and there are a lot in 10 years!) have done well and are happy when I see them as adults. They have jobs, families, homes and love.

Life is what you make it....what is in the past is in the past - leave it there. Sure life is a little harder and more emotional for your guy...but he can be anything he wants in the world...including dead or a street person. Tell him to decide and follow through :)

Leslie Fahr
...

This is definitely not true. I spent time in 3 separate care homes, leaving when I left school. Admittedly I had little confidence but I got a job in retail and a flat with a colleague. I eventually ended up working in schools (never would I have dreamt that a school would be a place that I would work). But having an understanding of how children felt who had, or were in care gave me something that most teachers did not have.I still work with children who have had a rough start in life & giving them resilience & showing they can make worthwhile choices with help from those like yourself is the best choice I have ever made. I don't have loads of money & have been through a few rough times since leaving care, but health, happiness & friends are the most important assets you can have. Unfortunately in this life there is always someone worse of than you, you only have to read the papers or listen to the news to realise that.
Hope this helps & I wish your young man the very best ...

Tess Croome-Cooper
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