"We really can make change"

Meet Mandy

At nine, Mandy was the caregiver to her two younger sisters. Police and child protection workers took them away from her mother and she went to live first with her uncle on her family reservation, Wikwemikong, on Manitoulin Island, and later in foster homes. Some turbulent, unhappy years passed as Mandy struggled with drugs and rebellion, and worse. At 17, when she realized she wasn’t going to graduate from high school, she made some dramatic changes. “It was determination not to fit the stereotype that turned me around. I just had to prove it to myself. I quit cold turkey,” she says.

She says the Halton Children’s Aid Society was there to support her when she needed help, and when she needed to leave Manitoulin to finish high school. Now, Mandy’s in college in North Bay, where she enjoys school and she’s planning to become a journalist. Mandy’s involved in the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) youth policy advocacy advisory group (YPAAG), working on changes to the rules surrounding youth in care.

“I absolutely love seeing the things youth can do—and being part of something. It was hard getting started, but now we have the group, we have so many voices. We really can make change.

YPAAG would like to see the age of protection raised to 18 from 16 and the age of coverage extended to 25 from 21. Mandy also supports counselling being available and offered, “even if you age out.” She explains that although she originally had no interest in talking about her experiences, later she did, and she believes that when you’re ready for counselling, it should be there.

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