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Coming full circle: Sam’s story

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for the people who cheered me on in the right direction — I owe them my life,” says Sam, a former youth in care.

Now in her mid-30s, Sam looks back and acknowledges the people and support systems from her past that helped put her on the path to a brighter future.

After moving between provinces and guardians, Sam came into formal care at age 14. “Being in care changed me, but it also saved me. If I had remained with my biological family, I would’ve gone through trauma that lasts beyond childhood. When I was in care, I had counsellors and mentors who saw my potential.”

Sam’s life was upheaved when she aged out of government care at 19 and didn’t have the support or mentorship that many young adults have. “I felt empty and alone. I made choices that I’m not proud of, was at times homeless and lost 40 pounds because I ate only once every couple of days. I was lost.”

Sam eventually got a job through the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, and persistently applied for Youth Education Assistance Funding to pursue college — but many kids who aged out of care before 2001 were left with nothing. Supports for youth were scarce and this needed to change.

“I remember when the Agreements with Young Adults program was introduced. I was beyond excited, and immediately began daydreaming about how the extra support could help me. I could work a little less and take an extra class! I could reduce my student loan debt and complete my degree faster! But my heart plummeted when I learned that the AYA program was only available for youth up to 24 years old — I had just narrowly missed the window,” she said. “I am so glad that the new changes to AYA extend the age limit and length of time, I only wish I could have benefitted from it when I was ready for post-secondary school.”

Sam translated her disappointment into determination, and with the support of her former foster mother and the mentors she had made along the way, she took steps towards a brighter future. And, like most young people, she needed some additional support and soon found it: a staff worker at Covenant House’s Rights of Passage Program in downtown Vancouver where Sam found affordable housing, healthy meals and peer support, as well as the continued guidance of a former foster parent.

“When I left government care I was lonely and unsure of what my future held— but there was a foster parent who I connected with. She was supportive and encouraged me to recognize my own worth. When I left the home, we stayed in touch. She let me come back for holidays when I was feeling alone. I guess you could say that she was meant to be in my life — we even spent Thanksgiving together this year.”

Today, Sam’s journey has come full circle. She has been an invaluable part of management teams on programs and services that support former youth in care, including the website and has consulted on numerous projects at the Ministry of Children and Family Development, including the new expansion to the Agreements with Young Adults Program. Ten years after graduating from the Rights of Passage program at Covenant House, Sam finds herself back there, but this time working directly with the young people in hopes of giving back to them what she received from the staff so many years ago. She said she thrives off the daily reminders of the impact that one person can have on another’s life.

“I think if anyone can understand the needs of these youth, it’s me. I’ve been through it all and thanks to the help of good people, I came out ok. Now, I want to be that person for them as they go through a similar journey.”

Learn More:

Youth who are aging out of formal care can access a wide range of services to support their transition into adulthood, including tuition waivers, the Youth Education Assistance Fund and much more.

To learn about what supports and services are available, check out a website created by youth in care, for youth in care. The interactive site covers important topics including housing options, financial literacy and health and wellness. With over 10,000 users to date, it’s a popular resource for young people who are taking the next steps in their journey to adulthood:

To learn more about Covenant House Vancouver, see:

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