It’s been 3 years. I’m a course and a couple of hundred hours away from completing the program and obtaining an advanced diploma in Child and Youth Care.
I went back to school in my late 30’s because I was sick and tired of struggling financially, knew I had more to offer than exceptional waitressing skills, and I just wanted to do what I had been dreaming about since childhood….making a difference in the world, and for someone.
I wanted to model to my 15 year old son that it’s never too late, that we all have gifts that should be given, and that living your dreams is fully and completely possible.
You just have to make it so.
What have I learned?
That our systems and society fail humans miserably.
In second year CYW students gathered in one of the lecture halls and listened as representatives from the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth let us in on studies and statistics regarding the safety, or more aptly, lack of safety of children and youth in care, gaps in services, and failures of systems across the board. This in and of itself speaks volumes. Here was the watchdog, trained to deliver the growls and bites to those who had been professionally trained to care for vulnerable children and youth, or those unregulated and untrained individuals who through years of working in the system due to lack of regulation surrounding Child and Youth Workers, were working side by side and one on one with some of the most vulnerable people in our cities, towns and provinces.
Although I stand firmly behind the regulation of Child and Youth Care workers and the profession itself, it must be noted that formally educated or not, there are enough concerns spanning the profession and the facilities or systems which care for our youth that point to “good” and “bad” workers in all categories.
I spoke up, like I do, and mentioned the irony and the hopes that the students in the room would graduate and go on to be the change needed, and the supports so desperately needed by the children and youth themselves, so that one day, although grateful for their existence, the need for an advocate disciplining advocates would no longer be needed.
I’m a dreamer. The world needs dreamers.
In order to change the system, I knew I had to become a part of it, and it is my mission to empower children and youth to do the same.
How is this possible?
By PREVENTION, by the elimination of price tags on interventions largely unattainable to most, and by taking all of the therapeutic activities and ways of delivering them, and putting them back into everyday living.
Music, art, gardening, writing, talk, expression, individual attention, group work, play, yoga, meditation, pet, sport…….these “____ therapies” pop up left and right and are all the rage, (albeit only among those who can afford it, or who live in cities big enough to justify offering interventions).
We are considered selfish if we make time for these things, for ourselves, and shove them all aside for the good of our families, our spouses, our bosses and others. Leisure and hobbies and simply just doing things that you love is considered quite irresponsible….”shouldn’t you be at work??”
Our education system, designed to process and form “the norm” and spit them off of the assembly line with the instructions to “do what you have to do to pay your bills” and “contribute to society by spending money” and ” work to save for retirement” leaves so many struggling, flailing, crying for help…..pushed through, sink or swim, completely ignored and utterly misunderstood.
Would it not make sense, from an empathetic, compassionate, and practical view, to offer all of the above listed interventions and activities in school and within communities…geared at fostering individual strengths and skills…..and watch as our children and youth grow into empowered people, doing what they love, able to give back to others and communities, living life with purpose and in full consciousness?
Frederick Douglas once said “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”
This, I fully believe, makes more sense than anything.
How do we change our systems?
I was in a semester long debate, sometimes battle, where I was even accused of having “outdated and damaging” views when I challenged one of my professors in regards to minority groups and the challenges they face.
When I envision hope and strength and empowerment, I see the strength and diversity of individuals first and foremost, no matter what race, religion or creed, joining together to make waves, make changes and be the change we all need. When rebutted, with the belief that it was the system who first needed to change, I questioned how long it had been, and how many changes had come.
Too long for me. I was losing more and more patience as I learned more and more about how our system works. I was feeling more and more anxious, and inspired to create the space and the model for individual empowerment.
I can’t let go of the image in my mind. Of looking into the eyes of a child, an individual, and saying “you can, you are, you will….and I’ll support you”.
Free Spirits Empowerment Advocacy. If you haven’t read about it please do.
It’s where I’m going, and this is how I got there. It’s also why I have decided to go through for Practical Nursing in the fall of 2016. I’ll need a paycheque to support my own family, while we work to support families in our community. We aren’t just dreaming anymore. There’s been enough discussion. It’s time for action.
Real action. Community based and interactive. Available and accessible to all.