DORI IS A FORMER YOUTH-IN-CARE AND NOW A YAC MEMBER ADVOCATING FOR THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CARE.
My name is Dori and I am a 22-year-old Indigenous woman from The Sc’ianew (Cheanuh) First Nation and Sakimay First Nation. I was fortunate to have had only one foster placement and was there since I was a baby (and still live there). My ‘foster caregivers’ are just ‘mom and dad’ to me. They have given me all the love and support that any child needs to navigate through this life. When I was little, I remember they would always take me to powwows and other cultural events; it was important to them that I know where I come from. Now, the roles have switched and I teach them! I started practicing beading, and introduced it to my mom. It’s actually pretty funny when we beadwork together – she has trouble practicing it the traditional way, and always tries to find easier ways to do it! It’s comforting knowing I can be my authentic self and have the support of my parents who honour where I come from and participate in the practices of my heritage.
Although foster care was a positive experience, I also went through some difficult times. I was angry growing up because I didn’t know my biological extended family, and it wasn’t until I aged into the community that I felt ready and open to getting to know them. With the support of VACFSS, I took a trip with my brother to my band in Saskatchewan. We were greeted by my whole family which was amazing, but also overwhelming and a lot to process. There, I also learned more about my culture.
You are allowed open up to your social worker about anything you are feeling, and you do have a voice and you shouldn’t feel like you can’t speak out on certain subjects.
Getting to know my biological family was the healing point for me. It was the missing piece of the puzzle that I had been searching for my whole life – I needed to know who my aunties, uncles, and cousins were.
If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her a few things: First of all, ‘You are resilient and everything will be okay’. ‘You will figure out who you are and you will be happy. Most of all, don’t hesitate to open up to your social worker about anything you are feeling. You do have a voice and you shouldn’t feel like you can’t speak out on certain subjects. I wish I had asked to have a family tree sooner.’
Our work is to ensure that youth not only have a voice in their own care, but also in the larger care system that is designed to support them.
Through my personal journey growing up in care, I learned many things along the way. I wanted to share some of that knowledge and have a positive impact on other children and youth who are similar circumstances. One of the things I am most proud of is my work and contribution as a member of the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). Our work is to ensure that youth not only have a voice in their own care, but also in the larger care system that is designed to support them. As a YAC member, I had the privilege to help facilitate an event put on by the Assembly of Seven Generations, a non-profit organization founded by Indigenous youth. This event included some teachings and discussions around the Human Rights Tribunal that the Caring Society was a part of in holding Canada and the government accountable for discriminating against First Nations regarding child welfare funding. We attended alongside other youth from all over the country and there, we discussed how the youth think the funds from the tribunal ruling should be provided to impacted Indigenous youth and communities. I am passionate of this work and am working towards enrolling in the Indigenous Studies program at Capilano University or the University of British Columbia.
YAC is also an amazing support group and a great place to build friendships. YAC has helped me further understand culture, and the culture of my cousins. It gives a sense of unity because we all have this shared experience that not many others can relate to. It’s also helped me develop my confidence and build on my public speaking skills, which has come in useful working as an extra for movies and television shows!