A former youth in care since the age of 12, Savanna Helsdon has seemingly always had to be older than her years.
Now 26, this proud mother of a thriving five-year-old boy was the recipient of last year’s Powerful Young Parent award.
The award is one of several given annually during B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week (June 1-7, 2020) by a steering committee comprised of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks and other youth-focused organizations.
Now in its 10th year, B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week is an opportunity to celebrate young people like Helsdon for their diverse talents, accomplishments and resiliency, and show them there is a community that supports and stands with them.
Resiliency is something Helsdon knows all about.
“From the age of nine or younger, I have memories of the ministry coming to our house. I had to help raise my younger brother and sister, and I was considered to be ‘the parent.’ There was always food on the table, but my family struggled with drugs and alcohol, and there was physical abuse in the home.”
When she was 12, the ministry placed Helsdon’s siblings in a temporary foster home, and since Helsdon was older, she was allowed to go to her aunt’s home. Her siblings joined her several weeks later, but the aunt, who had two of her own children, was eventually overwhelmed by the situation.
All three children were placed in a foster home. As the eldest child, she would often babysit her brother and sister. When circumstances in this home changed, new foster homes had to be found. That was the last time Helsdon would find herself living under the same roof as her siblings.
“At about 15 years old, I began rebelling. I was always smart enough to know who I wanted to be, regardless of how stupidly I was behaving. There was a line I would not cross.”
Shortly before she turned 17, Helsdon settled into a new foster home.
“They were great. I wish I’d been with them from the very beginning. They advocated and spoke up for me. Because of them, I even got the braces that I had needed for so long. Even after I aged out of care, they told me I was welcome to come back if I ever needed to.”
At 20, a public incident of domestic violence with a long-term boyfriend resulted in an epiphany. “This was not the life I wanted. I was done with him.”
These days, six years later, Helsdon is happily engaged to a young man who is finishing his teaching degree. Her pride and joy is her young son, and she is even managing to save for a registered education fund for his future.
Although rocked by a cancer diagnosis in 2018 shortly after beginning the early childhood education program at Capilano University, she has been in remission since December.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and her still-susceptible immune system, Helsdon has been away from her job as an early childhood education assistant at the local daycare where she runs the after-school program. When she’s ready, she may return and finish the early childhood education program, but Helsdon has bigger plans.
“The goal for my life – and my fiancé is totally on board with this, which is awesome, is to own our own home and open a daycare.”
For information about Child and Youth in Care Week, visit: https://www.bcchildandyouthincareweek.com/
For information about the Federation of BC Child and Youth in Care Networks, visit: www.fbcyicn.ca/
Children and youth in care need diverse, loving and capable caregivers. Learn more about foster caregiving: https://fosternow.gov.bc.ca/