Tomorrow is May 14th.
As of three years ago, May 14th has been declared Child and Youth in Care Day as this is a population that deserves to be celebrated as often times, the opposite occurs.
Sadly, there is an unwritten, automatic, preconceived idea that due to the trauma children and youth in care experience, they most likely will not reach the potential of other “average” youth in society. And, when there are youth in care who reach societal glorified achievements such as a university or college degree – they become the “poster children” or “exceptions” of the child and youth in care population.
While it is important to note that the adverse childhood experiences of children and youth in care may and do effect things such as schooling, housing stability and mental health – it is important to note that these youth are some of the most resilient youth in our communities who can achieve higher than is usually expected of them by society.
I had unexpectedly run into two youth from a FACS agency who heard one of my speeches. One of them had said to me “You are doing so well – I thought to myself, I could have been where you are if I didn’t screw up and stayed in school”.
If a youth in care is EVER discouraged by my “successes” – I am not doing my job as an advocate or, as an inspirational speaker.
What my job is, is to then say that if this is how a youth feels – we as a community need to improve celebrating what success looks like for ALL youth while also, not setting the bar at a level that suggests that a post-secondary graduation of a youth in care is the ultimate achievement which then, leads to tokenism of those youth. We need to find the middle ground.
Rather than looking at a youth in care who did not graduate post-secondary and thinking that they fit into the percentage of youth in care who do not graduate according to published scientific studies, we should support them in finding out what THEIR version of success is. What can they achieve that will bring self-sufficiency and happiness to their lives? Ultimately, is this not what success truly is?
On Child and Youth in Care Day – We need to celebrate ALL children and youth in care. Not just the youth who graduate and who speak at events and who raise money for foundations.
I am not a success because I graduated university as a crown ward. I am a success because of who I am as a person.
All children and youth in care are important, and should all be celebrated and should all be expected to reach their potentials – which for many, is much higher than what they are told by society.
If you are a youth in care reading this – Celebrate YOU on May 14th. And know, that even if you do not have a university degree, you can do great things in this world. You just need to figure out what those great things are (if you haven’t already).