I came into the care of the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society (KHCAS) a day before my 15th birthday. I had spent most of my childhood living in an unstable environment. My mother is an alcoholic and so growing up was quite hard. It meant dealing with a difficult parent most of the time and never knowing what sort of environment it would be at home. Home changed often too. Sometimes we lived in hotels, cars, trailers, etc. After many physical and verbal altercations with my mother that only increased in intensity as I got older, I started to reach out for help. At age 13 I called KHCAS to find someone to talk to about what was happening at home. Through their support, I found the courage to leave home and on my 15th birthday I entered my first foster home.
I moved around a couple of times [when I first came into care] which made it hard to feel accepted and loved, and stability was again hard to achieve. I also found school quite difficult because when I entered foster care, I was also entering high school. So while I was deciding what courses to take and what dress to wear at prom, I was also going to court, having family visits, and making the decision to become a Crown Ward. So I found I had to grow up quite quickly and had no real understanding of the impact that all had on me.
When I think of who most exemplifies “Be the One”, which is the title of this article, I think of my (foster) parents. They both accepted me wholeheartedly and showed me what unconditional love was, and that they were going to be my family even beyond the time I aged out of the system. I am incredibly grateful for their love and support and how they completely opened up their home and their hearts to me. My life could have been so different without them both in it. But when I think about “Be the One” I think more specifically of my dad. I put brackets around foster (in the sentence above) because he has truly become my dad in every way. He has been there for me since the first day I moved in. He made sure I was aware that if I fell, he would help pick me back up again. My dad has become someone who I have leaned on and confided in. Someone who has helped shape me into the person I am today because he taught me to believe in myself and to take back my self-worth.
It can be extremely lonely at times for youth in care, with many feeling isolated and alone and thinking that no one understands. If I had any advice for Children’s Aid Societies it would be to] remind youth of the supports that are in place for them. Just saying it in passing in a meeting or through handouts is not enough. Reminders are key. Just as they are when it comes to them knowing they are loved, thought of, and cared about. Engage with these youth. Connect them with former youth in care who have come out the other side of it and can share in their own experiences. These kids need hope and it is up to us to show it to them.
I am currently working with the office of Michael Harris, MPP Kitchener-Conestoga. This job came after previously working with an MP for the federal government. My job entails assisting the Member with work in his constituency. Being in my role lets me offer help and be a voice for those who need one.
I have just always had a passion to help others. I chose to volunteer with Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region because it was a way for me to use my own experiences to help those who are currently in care. I am able to use my voice for the youth who don’t have one.
I found it important for me to give back to those who gave to me, in other words “Be the One” for someone else who may need a helping hand in their life.
Meaghan has recently started a scholarship for Crown wards who are going to attend post-secondary education. The “One to Another” scholarship is in its second year and thanks to generous supporters will be giving out its second scholarship this June. For more information on Meaghan, her work as an advocate, or the “One to Another” scholarship initiative email: firstname.lastname@example.org.