This guest post is by Susan Russell from the Adoption Council of Canada’s Youth Speak Out Project.
I was part of Manitoba’s 10,000 youth in care.
Today, I’m proud to say I am one of the 1% of children who are adopted annually.
Unlike other children and youth, I have the privilege to wonder “why me?” Why did total strangers want me to be a part of their family?
Why do I have a permanency plan? I’ll never have these answers, but I believe every child deserves a stable home and I feel extremely privileged to advocate for permanency planning.
Permanency means having a permanent, forever family. That forever family relationship can come from a biological family, a guardian or an adoptive family.
Growing up, my brother and I had countless opportunities because of our permanency plan. Because of our forever family we both succeeded in graduating high school and having many job opportunities.
Unfortunately, my biological family didn’t have that privilege. My biological mother, Cathy, was apprehended from her parents at age six.
She was living on the street by age 11. There, she had a life exposed to poverty, prostitution and drugs. Cathy had nine children altogether. One by one they were apprehended and put into the child welfare system.
Some of us were adopted. The rest of my brothers and sisters became a statistic, part of the 10,000 children and youth in provincial care.
Today, I am advocating for my mother, brothers and sisters and every other child in care who deserve opportunities, hope and a home through permanency planning.
We can create permanency by creating resources and giving tools to birth families, guardians, adoptive families and foster parents.
Having someone in your community, school or family that you can look up to can make a colossal impact on a child.
If a person hasn’t been given parenting tools in life, they’ll struggle greatly to be model parent themselves.
My biological mother didn’t have a mentor. She had no one to look up to when she was down. Her parents didn’t pass on the skills of how to be a good parent so she also had no idea how to care for her children.
If you have children, I’m sure at some point during parenthood you may have wished there was a manual that came with the arrival of your child.
Education is the key. Educating parents will provide them with opportunities to feel successful and give them confidence in their abilities.
As a result, the first tool I propose is to have educational tools for families. With the birth of each child, each family should be given informational pamphlets detailing all community resources available to them as a parent.
We should create awareness of resources that offer positive parenting advice, and give families the chance and opportunity to help with their children’s growth and holistic well being.
Secondly, we need to create not-for-profit parent groups within communities throughout provinces and cities.
An experienced parent or early childhood educator should mediate these parent groups in order to offer positive parenting advice effectively and efficiently.
The way it would work is parents would have the opportunity to discuss tools, resources and advice in a child-friendly environment. This will increase a new parent’s confidence and build upon and improve their parenting skills for their children.
Lastly, I would focus on the community as a resource. Raising children is a community effort.
As Canadians we pride ourselves on advocating for diversity and human rights. But how can we be proud when we don’t take care of the children in our own country?
It’s time for adoption standards to become federally mandated. Each province needs to have the same, high-level standard of care across the board. Then all of Canada can start the conversation of what works in care and what could improve.
Let’s get children and youth out of care and into homes together. Children are our future, and I believe we all want all of Canada to have a healthy, vibrant, successful future.
It starts with all of today’s children and youth. To advocate for all of Canada’s children is like investing in the future. I wouldn’t be here today without a permanency plan.
A family of strangers gave me opportunities that I can never thank them enough for or put into words. I thank them every single day for adopting me.
Permanency has given me a family.Without it, I might have been like my mother, brothers and sisters living in poverty with little or no hope of a bright future.
No more malnourished children should have to slip through the cracks. No more children should fly under the radar. No more children should go without “stability, security, and relationships that last through good times and hard times” and most of all no child should have to go without a home.
It’s time to break the cycle together.
Because no matter who you are, how strong you are or how old you are, everyone needs someone.
Susan Russell is a third year university student in Winnipeg and a member of the Adoption Council of Canada’s Youth Speak Out Project and the Manitoba Youth in Care network.
To find out more about what you can do to help find permanency for the 30,000 children and youth in government care in Canada, visit the Adoption Council of Canada website.