My name is Shyanne, I am 19 years old, and I have been in care since I was 15 years old. I have five brothers and one sister that are all younger than me.
Over five years ago, I was living with my mom and four of my other siblings. When I was just 11 years old I was raising my siblings, more specifically my two youngest siblings; my sister at the time was about one and my brother was a couple of months old. Until I went into care at the age of 15, I was responsible for changing, feeding, bathing, getting them dressed, eventually getting them to school, and all of the housework responsibilities. All of my stepdads were very abusive physically and mentally and they were involved with drugs such as ecstasy, marijuana, and cocaine. My mom was rarely home and could be gone for a couple of days a time. I usually didn’t know where she went until I was much older; she sat me down and told me that she needed a way to make money so she started dealing drugs with whichever stepdad was with her at the time. As a result of the low income we often relied on food banks for our food and second hand clothing. I didn’t attend school very often because I was the primary caregiver and had to care for my siblings.
Three days before my 15th birthday, I was pulled into my principal’s office at school. I was told that I was being taken to the police station for an interview. Afterwards we went to go apprehend my siblings from the after school daycare that they were attending. Then we were split up and we all went into foster care. I will never forget the joy that my foster mom had when first meeting me. She hugged me and said, “this is not a foster home, this is your home” and those words will stick with me the rest of my life. Not once had I had a place that I could truly call home, but I have been fortunate enough to have one for the last 5 years with the most incredible parents anyone could ask for.
Most people assume that all of the experiences in care are very negative. Although that certainly can be right, there are also a lot of positives that I was fortunate enough to experience while I was in care. Through the Children’s Aid Foundation I was able to attend camp for my first time and I am now going on my 6th year, with these past 2 years working as a camp counselor. I tried out for sports teams (competitive cheerleading and ice-hockey, quite the opposites I must say haha!) I actually did both for a number of years. Last but not least, I was able to receive scholarships, which has truly been so helpful as I am currently finishing my second year at Humber College doing a Bachelors degree in Child and Youth Care in hopes to one day obtain my Masters in Social Work. I cannot explain how much of an impact all of these has had on me. I was able to try new things and have the support that I needed while I thrived throughout the last 5 years. I went from having low grades in grade 9 and 10 to graduating as an Ontario Scholar and receiving the science award which is awarded to the student with the highest mark in all of the classes in that subject to now being in post secondary and looking forward to making the changes to better the child welfare system.
I graduated with over 155 volunteer hours in high school. The main reason I choose to volunteer is not only because I love it, but also because I know that I am making a change in someone else’s life. If I wasn’t able to have the opportunities that I did while I was in care, I would not be where I am today. Because of that, I choose to give back.
I want to leave you with one last thought, my foster mom has a poster in one of the bedrooms that says, “you are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe, and smarter than you think.” During my last 5 years I have realized that I am all of these things.