No substitute for family

At sixteen was advised she was self sufficient

“I was surprised that anyone would want to adopt me at 16. I thought, what do I have to offer to this family? Am I good enough? Will this work out?”

“I was surprised that anyone would want to adopt me at 16. I thought, what do I have to offer to this family? Am I good enough? Will this work out?”

Anna was living on her own at 16 and was offered a family.

Her friend’s family took her into their home on multiple occasions when she couldn't care for herself. For instance, she was on crutches for 6 weeks during the wintertime and couldn't take public transit to school. CAS couldn’t offer a volunteer driver or an alternate way to get her to school. Without her friend’s family taking her in, she would have missed school. Another time, she had her wisdom teeth taken out and was put on a special diet. Her friend’s mom took care of her. Her friend's parents offered to adopt her when she was 16. Anna says, “I was surprised that anyone would want to adopt a teenager. I thought, what do I have to offer to this family? Am I good enough? Will this work out?”

Her social worker at the time highly encouraged her to continue with living independently and decline the offer to be adopted. At the worker’s advice, Anna agreed. Looking back, she sees many aspects of her life as a teenager and young adult that were impacted by not having a family. No one was there to teach her basic life skills. She didn’t have role models to show her how to interact with people, how to trust them or how to thank those who helped her. She suppressed all of her feelings and was afraid to connect with people. As Anna says, “I was vulnerable and scared as a teenager.” As a young adult, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays are continual reminders that she doesn’t have family. There is no safe haven where she can go and ask for advice. In her words, “I don’t have a family who loves me unconditionally and looks out for my best interest.”

Her personal and professional experience has helped her to understand why her social workers would have suggested that she live independently rather than go through the difficult process of adoption. But she doesn’t think her workers expected much of her. She remembers showing one of them her report cards with an 85% average, and complaining that she wanted a 90% average to apply for a prestigious scholarship for university. One of her workers said, “I’m just happy you passed, I would have been happy even if you got a 70% average.” It’s unlikely they expected she would graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work and would be working in child welfare. Anna has worked with children with autism and does crisis counselling. She wonders if the workers’ experience in the field may have jaded them, leaving them unable to predict good results for youth in care, and help them work towards that. Anna feels fortunate that she had a wonderful worker when she aged out of care, someone who always saw her resilience and praised her successes.

 On the idea of permanency Anna poignantly shares, “Though I have grown as a person and achieved so much at a young age, the one thing I am missing is a family to call my own. And a family can never be substituted with any worker or institution.”

 -Anna is a former Crown Ward, age 21

Her mother’s common-law partner murdered her mother and grandmother when she was 13.