“The first thing I remember is that it was a big, warm house with food on the table. I remember looking into the pantry and it was full of food. It was hard for me to imagine that such a place even existed.”
These are Jaclyn King's first recollections of being placed into a foster home, at age seven, with her brother and sister.
Jaclyn's story is part of B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week, June 4-10, 2018, which marks a tradition that originated eight years ago because of advocacy by youth in and from care. It’s an opportunity to celebrate young people like Jaclyn for their diverse talents, accomplishments and resiliency, and show them that there is a community that supports and stands with them.
“A lot of the time, there wasn’t food in our own house,” said Jaclyn, now 22. Living with her young single mom and two siblings, she added, “We’d end up eating weird things just not to be hungry.”
Now that she’s older, she has more sympathy for her mother, who was struggling with drug and alcohol use, and had been ostracized by her family who were part of a religion Jaclyn described as “all or nothing”.
Between the ages of seven and 12, Jaclyn bounced between her mother’s place and a foster family. At 15, she decided to leave care and return to her mother. At that time, she was dating a man seven years older than she was, who was “really controlling”.
By the time Jaclyn was 18, her mother got fed up with the cycle of violence she was witnessing in her daughter’s relationship, and initiated a restraining order against Jaclyn’s boyfriend, who was eventually arrested and put in jail.
“Being away from him for a month let me see things differently,” she said.
At the time, she’d been getting support from a youth counsellor employed with Victim Services and Support. Jaclyn said she focused on school, and things were better with her mom.
“I really wanted to be my own person and I knew that couldn’t happen with him. I still see my ability to free myself from him as my biggest accomplishment,” she said.
She completed high school and in 2016, she graduated from an esthetics course in Nelson. She now works at a small medi-spa in Castlegar. One of her favourite things about the job is helping people feel better about themselves.
“They’ll come in and be apologetic about the condition of their feet or their skin, and by the time they leave I see how much better they feel about themselves.”
Her long-term goals are to go back to school to become a registered nurse. “Financial independence is really important to me,” she said.
This year, Jaclyn signed on to the ministry’s Youth Advisory Council, an opportunity that came through a very unlikely source.
“One day a woman came into the spa to have her eyebrows waxed. We got talking and we realized we knew of each other.”
The woman supervised the social workers who were responsible for Jaclyn’s file during her time in care. At the end of the appointment, with her client’s eyebrows perfected, the woman who had monitored Jaclyn’s status on paper as a child and young teen had planted an idea. She asked if Jaclyn would consider volunteering on the ministry’s Youth Advisory Council.
And Jaclyn decided the time was right.
“Sometimes life works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I’m just glad to have this opportunity to have my voice heard. I want kids in care to know that life does get better and that they’re surrounded by tons of support.”
- The Ministry of Children and Family Development partners with the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, the Adoptive Families Association of BC, the Indigenous Perspectives Society, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, First Call, and the Federation of Community Social Services of BC to host celebratory events around the province during BC Child and Youth in Care Week.
Children and youth in care need diverse, loving and capable caregivers. Learn more about foster caregiving at: https://fosteringconnections.ca/