Jaclyn King is doing more than surviving — she is thriving.
As a former youth in care, the twenty-two-year-old from Castlegar has had a lot to overcome. Her success story is being profiled this week as part of the 2018 BC Child and Youth in Care Week.
The annual event is a time to celebrate young people in government care. Youth in and from care were behind the event — pushing for a way that their brothers and sisters still in care would feel supported by a community that stands with them and hoping to raise awareness about the barriers they face.
King was in and out of foster homes from the time she was seven.
“As a kid, you don’t always realize just how bad it is,” she said. “I have several memories that are actually pretty dark and scary. You get desensitized to trauma.”
“I will never forget how I felt when we got put in our foster home. When I went into their cupboards and saw they were full of food. That was something I had never seen before in my life…
“They were cooking pasta for us and asking about what kind of noodles we wanted,” she recalls. “I thought that was so bizarre — thinking, you have options?”
King is glad that those days are behind her and that she can laugh about some of those things now.
“They are actually quite sad experiences. It took me a long time to get to that point, and lots of counselling.”
She also remembers feeling out of place and like she didn’t belong.
King is now a part of the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC). She says the opportunity made her feel like the voice of her inner child could finally be heard.
King says it has taken her a long time to be willing to talk about her experiences as a foster child, but being a part of YAC has helped her with that process.
“I look at it now more as something that I am proud that I went through, rather than being ashamed,” said King. “But I know when I was in it, it was something I struggled with.”
As part of the council she had the opportunity to participate in a forum on permanancy and what that looks like for foster kids.
King hopes to continue serving on the council and one day would like to have an influence that would see more opportunities in the region for current and former youth in care to get together.
“When you are in foster care, you feel lonely,” said King. “You don’t meet a lot of other foster children. You feel like a bit of an outcast.”
King and her siblings were fortunate to be placed time-after-time with the same Castlegar family. “A lot of people don’t have that luxury … a lot of people bounce around to different homes.”
“If you have already lost your biological family and then you are going from home to home — I can’t imagine how much harder that would be.”
As for her foster home, to this day King says, “I feel more at home there than I have ever felt anywhere else. When I think of permanency, I think of their house.”
“I want people to know there are good foster homes around here.”
At the age of 15, King made a decision that she now sees as a big mistake. As a teenager who thought “she knew everything” and that people had given up on her, she decided to step out from under the umbrella of foster care.
“It would have opened so many more doors for me and I could have avoided some of the darker things I went through.”
One of those dark things was an abusive relationship that was hard to get out of.
“I probably wouldn’t have gone through that, had I had the support from my foster mom.”
King is enjoying working as an esthetician at Renew Medispa, but has plans to pursue a nursing career in the future. She is thankful that nowadays there are more and more supports in place for former youth in care to help them reach their goals.
“I feel [the two careers] are correlated — you are basically caring for someone. I think being an esthetician already and having that massage background and gentle, compassionate heart that you have to be a good esthetician — I think that will make me a good nurse too.”
She encourages youth in care to avail themselves of all of the supports and resources that are available.
To kids still in care — King wants to say, “It will get better. You are not weird, there is nothing wrong with you. Being in care, you probably have experienced a lot more than most at such a young age — it will make you a better person in the long run. Take advantage of the opportunities that are there — people are there for you.”