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Program Allows Student to Give Back

April 15, 2013

By: Child and Youth Worker student Katelyn Cowx

To be honest, I never used to like children that much. When I was in foster care I always lived with a house full of kids and they tended to be younger than me. At one of the homes, my foster parent noticed I was good with them and asked me if working with children was something I would be interested in doing in the future. I hadn’t really thought about it and I didn’t know that it was an option until then.

Now 19-years old, I am a second-year student in the Child and Youth Worker program at Loyalist College, and I will continue to further my education in university, after I receive my diploma.

Looking back on the last five years, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. Today, my goal is to help children who are in similar situations that I experienced, come just as far. I want to encourage them to have dreams and take all of the opportunities available to them and follow the positive path. Children in care don’t always have people who can relate to them, so I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences, because I’ve been through almost everything, I can be a role model.

If you’re a child in care, there’s a reason why, and you need assistance and counseling services. I want to make that more available. I was in and out of foster care since I was 13. Until recently, most of my life has been spent moving from one place to another in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and the Yukon. Growing up, the most time I ever spent in one home was seven months.

I never knew what it was like to have a stable home, which made me an unstable kid. I caused a lot of trouble for myself growing up. I wasn’t open to accepting help, determined to be unhappy with my life.

I was in and out of so many schools; I had difficulty keeping up with other students. Whenever I started to feel like I was getting it, we would move and the curriculum would be completely different. Moving took a toll on me, and eventually I started coasting through, failing my classes. I moved so often, there was no time to make friends or get settled in. I used to get chased down the street by kids, beat up, and kicked. When I got home, I’d get more of the same. 

In 2008, after my parents separated, I moved to Belleville, Ontario with my mom.  My dad decided to go back to the Yukon, so I thought it would be a fresh start. After four months, I went back into foster care. Being a foster child wasn’t easy, and I went through some rough times. 

Eventually, with the help of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), I was placed into Quinte Children’s Homes (QCH). QCH is a parent therapy model of child care, which focuses on the core values and skills necessary to help foster kids grow into successful, happy adults. To work with QCH, you need a diploma or degree relating to the field of child and youth worker. There is also regular mandatory training for Parent Therapists – the foster parents of a home.

I learned so much from each Parent Therapist I lived with. At first, I took advantage of the freedom they gave me, but I learned to compromise and follow the rules, which helped me get back on track. I went from an unhappy home to living with people who cared and gave me guidance. I thrived.

When I was 17, I decided I wanted to do something positive with my life.  My Parent Therapist encouraged me to pursue something bigger, and suggested that I should consider making a career out of working with children and youth. 

That was when I started to realize my potential, and decided to take the College Prep program at Loyalist College. Growing up, I had no idea what college was, but suddenly I had a world of possibilities in front of me. Within a year, I completed my Grade 12 equivalency. I felt empowered, like I had finally accomplished something positive after drowning for so long.

Currently, I’m in my second-year of the three-year Child and Youth Worker Ontario College Advanced Diploma program and I’m on the Dean’s List. I knew during my first week in the program that it was right for me. The faculty have so much experience in the field, and were welcoming from day one. 

I spent last summer working at the day camps offered at Loyalist College. It was so rewarding to see the children learn and grow. I’ve also been working and volunteering at QCH, and there are a couple of kids I like to visit regularly. I want them to know that I’m there for them – a stable person in their lives who won’t disappear.

I understand these children and want to help them. I want to show them that I was in their position and didn’t let my undesired past, which led me into foster care, stop me from getting what I wanted in life. I’m a much happier person now. I wake up and smile. So many people helped me get here and look forward in my life, and now I want to return the favour. I want people to see the positive in my story, not the negative – and to keep fighting to achieve their dreams.