foster care stories, kids in foster care

Perspectives From a Child in Foster Care: Stories From QCH

At 17 years old, Katelyn is confident, educated, and well-spoken. But her life hasn’t always been quite so balanced. “I’ve been with Quinte Children’s Homes for more than two years, since May 2009,” she reflected. “I’ve been with my current [QCH foster family] for a year now; that’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place.”

When she was younger, Katelyn didn’t know anything was different about her family, “there was just a lot of drama”. But her friends noticed, and so did her school; what followed was a revolving door between her family and foster care. “I moved every 5 months – 7 months at most,” she said, whether with her parents or moving in and out of foster care.

“I’ve lived in every part of the country, except B.C. and Nunavut,” she said. “I didn’t find it hard to move around, that’s just the way it was.”

In 2008, Katelyn and her mom came to the Belleville area. After a move into foster care, Katelyn eventually found her way into Quinte Children’s Homes (QCH). “I wasn’t very stable,” she admitted. “I mean, I didn’t cause trouble for anybody else, just for myself. I wasn’t open to accepting any help.”

Living with her QCH foster family changed that; even though she wasn’t interested in getting help, she says they still had therapeutic input into her life. “I was used to being very restricted; when I moved in with my [QCH foster family] I went from feeling confined to having freedom — and at first, I took complete advantage of that.”

Katelyn noted, however, that their response wasn’t to take that freedom away again. “Instead, I had to set – and meet – certain boundaries. For example, I could go out but I had to check in. I could get what I wanted, but only as long as [my foster family] also got what they wanted.”

She said the responsibility of this approach worked well for her, admitting she probably would have rebelled otherwise.

“Katelyn’s story is not particularly unique — that’s what makes our service model so successful,” explains Melissa Hulshof, Program Coordinator at Quinte Children’s Homes.  “At QCH we meet many kids and young adults who’ve had so much change in their lives. Our goal is to give them the skills they need to become adults with the resiliency and skills needed to succeed”.

QCH’s parent therapy model is focused around nine “core competencies” or skills that help an individual grow successfully into an adult.

  1. Family, and the opportunity to live in a stable home.
  2. Health, which includes personal health and safety, and avoiding risk-taking behaviour.
  3. Social Presentation, the development of good social skills.
  4. Community & Social Relationships, to be supported by and active in their community.
  5. Identity, to have a positive view of him or herself, as well as cultural, community and spiritual awareness.
  6. Emotional/Behavioural Development, so they can experience emotional well-being and be able to cope with everyday life.
  7. Education/Employment, to be successful in academic and/or vocational activities.
  8. Self-care, so that as they get older they will be able to manage greater levels of inter-dependence until becoming an adult.
  9. Resiliency, so they have the strength and resources to face adversity.

Katelyn also attended classes at Applewood Academy and is now working towards graduation; she will start the Child and Youth Worker program at Loyalist College this September. In the interim, she’s working as a junior staff person at Applewood; her experiences there will be highlighted in an upcoming blog post.