In her last year of high school, Reina Foster and her younger brother Liam made the conscious decision to return to care after realizing that their mother could not support them.
“It was a very difficult act to go through, but our safety is what mattered most,” recalls Foster.
At age 24, Foster now lives in her home community — Lac Seul First Nation — with two children of her own. For Children and Youth Day, she shared her experience of living in care in hopes to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma from the residential school era.
“I can speak in the most honest terms, I grew up way too quickly than I should have,” said Foster. “I am constantly self-reflecting on my younger days, and I am aware of what happened to myself and my brother.
“I feel as though I owe myself for what I lost as a child and I am recovering and healing from the hurt, inequalities and injustice that I have faced.”
Foster’s experiences are one of many youths in care. Children and Youth in Care Day provides an opportunity to share their stories with the community to help de-stigmatize public perception of youths in need of care.
Tikinagan Child and Family Services is encouraging the communities served by the organization to honour children and youth through the month of May.
At two years old, Foster was first placed in foster care with her brother Liam. She recalled experiencing many forms of abuse emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. At school, she recalled being bullied resulting in physical confrontations with other students.
“We constantly wished to be free,” said Foster. “Being as young as we were, I do not recall telling anyone about what happened in that placement. But one thing I do recall is feeling powerless and unprotected.”
As a young girl, her foster guardians would take her to church where she felt even more displaced.
“I understood everything but deep down, I knew that was not meant for me. My spirit longed to be immersed in my culture and after my childhood, after my mother got us out of childcare, I was able to explore my spirituality,” Foster said. “The displacement I faced as a child did not break my spirit at all. Revitalizing her culture has helped bring a sense of identity, a sense of belonging and a sense of resiliency into my life.”
Today, Foster is a leader in her community of Lac Seul First Nation and sits as a member of the youth council that advises Tikinagan’s board and also sits on the youth advisory team.
“If any form of abuse still occurs in childcare today, children and youth need to know that they have a safe place within the system. They can trust their foster family, child care worker and child care agency. Healthy child development is essential in the childcare setting,” said Foster.