Jessica

Jessica is the oldest of three siblings. When she was born, her mother was too young and ill-prepared to handle the responsibility of raising children in a healthy environment. Because of that, Jessica and her brother and sister were placed in their first foster home when she was five-years-old.

Her first foster mom enrolled Jessica in Girl Guides which ultimately had a strong influence on her. “Being a girl guide member and then a leader for a few years was important to me because we need to as a society empower girls and young women to go after what they want, and be whatever they want to be,” says Jessica. “It is where I met a friend who is my best friend today. She encouraged me to keep returning to Girl Guides each year. We enjoyed awesome camping trips and had the time of our lives.” Her enthusiasm for the outdoors continues today.

Jessica’s life changed again during elementary school when she was placed into a culturally-appropriate Marymound Treatment Foster Care (TFC) home that fortunately included her siblings. The trauma from early childhood had created emotional issues that required skilled foster parents and specialized care. The new stability and guidance from the TFC program helped Jessica become the top student of her middle school graduating class. She later graduated from high school with a B average.

Initially, when Jessica and her siblings entered foster care, there was no contact with their birth Mother. But eventually through Marymound Treatment Foster Care, visits were scheduled through their second foster family. The experience led to Jessica seeing her mother from a new perspective and noticing the positive changes she was making in her life. This helped to set the groundwork for a future healthy relationship.

Jessica’s Marymound family included two loving parents with four children of their own. She lived with them for 11 years. This positive family environment enabled her and her siblings to be exposed to new experiences that included playing musical instruments and going on school trips. She also learned to drive, and was able to enjoy numerous other opportunities. Her foster parents also influenced Jessica’s understanding of the significance of education. “To me, education is important because people need to learn so that they can become productive members of society in one way or another, or in ways that work for them,” says Jessica.

Jessica is thankful for her Marymound family who helped raise her through all the good and difficult times until she was 21. Jessica currently lives with her birth mother. “It is fantastic that I am back with her and I’m very glad she fought so hard for us to have a relationship while we were in foster care so that it wasn’t a weird thing to live with her after I aged out,” she beams. “I also live with my brother at my Mom’s house but my sister recently moved out. I know that no matter what happens between us that my siblings will always be there for me, as I will be for them.”

Jessica is currently working and is hoping for a permanent position as an Educational Assistant in the Winnipeg School Division. She also has plans to foster, after she has children of her own. “I think people will see me wanting to be a foster parent kind of odd, but I see it as a way to give back for all the years I was in care. In total, I was in care for 14 years and I have said thank you for different things, but I think this is a great way to give back in a good way.”

Chevie

Marymound offers programs and services that help referred children and youth of all ages. The Independent Options Program (IOP) at Marymound prepares youth from within Marymound and from elsewhere in the child welfare system for their transition to adulthood and living independently. Chevie Delaronde joined IOP at age 18.

Chevie was resilient from a very young age. Coming from a turbulent upbringing in a very small town north of Winnipeg, she focused on many activities to help deal with the challenges she faced. Chevie learned to play the guitar, fiddle and square dance. She also loved the outdoors and had an interest in building things because she was surrounded by family members adept at carpentry.

After finishing elementary school, she struggled in high school in nearby Swan River as she was still affected by the physical and emotional issues from home that caused her to get into trouble.

She decided a change had to be made so she spoke with a social worker, “I can’t take it anymore and I don’t want to live at home.” She was soon placed in care and ended up living in a Group Home for three years (even though the maximum time was to be six months). Unfortunately, her troubles continued at the Group Home. “I got into the wrong crowd and eventually got kicked out of high School in grade 10 and was told not to come back.”

“I decided to come to the city because I wanted to change my life,” says Chevie. Her social worker found her a foster home in Winnipeg, but since her move came in the middle of a school year, she had to wait until the following year to enroll. She realized that schooling was her number one option and focused on her studies. Thinking back, some of Chevie’s motivation came from an RCMP officer she knew. He stressed the importance of attaining an education and how it enables you to pursue many opportunities. Chevie’s foster mom was also a stickler for kids getting their homework done that also helped to keep her focused.

Chevie’s foster mom also wanted to find her the right program to better prepare her for adulthood. So, at the age of 18, and with the help of her social worker, Chevie entered the Independent Options Program (IOP) at Marymound. The IOP transition program taught her to budget, prepare meals, grocery shop, and provided her with the necessary life skills to eventually succeed on her own. Chevie also gained work experience through the Marymound Student Work Experience Education program (SWEEP) by helping in the Marymound kitchen. This summer, she worked regularly with SWEEP on landscaping the Marymound campus earning her first regular paycheque!

Chevie has been thriving in her own apartment with the assistance of IOP for the last two years. While living independently she has been a model tenant, and studied diligently to proudly graduate high school.

Now 20, Chevie realizes she wants more. While discussing with support workers her potential post-secondary options in the Trades, carpentry came to mind. “I like building things, I enjoy being outside so I thought I’d give that a try,” says Chevie. “I would be the first family member to be a certified carpenter!”

Chevie recently completed the application form for the Carpentry Program at the Manitoba Institute of Trade and Technology and was accepted. She used her own savings to pay for her seat deposit.

By being in a Marymound Program, she was eligible for a Marymound Bursary. Chevie applied and based on many positive testimonials (in addition to her own perseverance), she received enough funds to cover the cost of the carpentry program. “I thought maybe if got half the money, I’d be happy. This is more than I expected, I am so grateful to Marymound for helping me build my future.”

Because of her resilience and perseverance along with Marymound’s Independent Options Program, and Bursary, Chevie has an opportunity to realize her full potential.

 

Krystyne

Krystyne Hastings, 22, is a former Marymound youth in care placed in the Marygrove Group Home at age 9 due to a neglectful and abusive home. Prior to coming to Marymound, she was bounced around from various foster homes before settling at Marygrove, a group home for girls ages 9 to 13.

After aging out of the group home she was placed in a foster home with her sister, but then spent the next two years moving from foster home to foster home. At 14, Krystyne moved back home with her Mom and subsequently gave birth to her first child at 15. After becoming a mother, Krystyne soon realized that home was not the home she needed as she was left on her own by her mother. Krystyne and her baby were soon placed in care with a family friend until the age of 17 when she moved out on her own.

Krystyne currently lives in a house with her boyfriend and now has three children, aged 9 months, 3, and 7. In addition to enjoying motherhood, she has been busy with her art– something that has always been important to her because it provides a positive focus to counteract any negativity in her life. Krystyne recently emailed Marymound staff and proudly announced that she was chosen as one of Winnipeg’s RAW Artists. Her art will be showcased on April 21 at 441 Main Street and she would love the support, and be very happy to see everyone. She decided it also was important to finish the remaining six months of her grade 12 by attaining her GED while hoping to continue her education at Urban Circle, focusing on Social Work or Health Care Aid options.

Krystyne’s life has been unstable and chaotic, but through it all she remembers her four-year stay at Marygrove that set the foundation for who she is today. In August 2014 she said the following on Marygrove’s Facebook page:

“The things I have learned from Marymound I have carried on into my kids. I am going to try my best so they can have their own special memories and a great childhood. Growing up at Marymound’s Marygrove Group Home as a kid, I thought I was bad with too many rules about this and that, but in the end it was everything a kid could ask for and more.

What sucks about it is that we don’t realize it until we are older how good you have things and how the staff truly care about you. I just want to say thank you Marygrove staff who worked with me. You all had an effect on me in so many different ways. I wish there were a few staff I could find to let them know how good I’m doing. I have my own house with two kids. I have a homecare job. I’m on my own. It’s tough but worth it in the end.

My struggle to get where I am now made me realize how easy I had it at Marygrove. If there was anything I could say to other kids who take on living there is “take your time in growing up. Appreciate what you have there, some kids have nothing and would love to be at Marygrove. I miss Marygrove and I’m proud to say that this was once my home. Thank you Marygrove staff.” Love always, Krystyne Hastings.

Ryan

Ryan has completed gender reassignment and has been living as a man for 11 years in Vancouver. Ryan will be respected by addressing him only by his present name and by the use of male pronouns. This is his story.

Ryan entered Marymond in 1996 about to turn 17. He had previously bounced around from different group homes, hospitals and the former Seven Oaks Centre for Youth.

He had a troubling past, coming from a chaotic, abusive and transient family upbringing. It led to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that caused very low self-esteem and an inability to express his feelings. To compound his anxiety was his awareness of feeling like a man in a woman’s body.

Fortunately for Ryan, he felt the love and support from the Marymound staff when he arrived, as they were the first adults he had ever felt safe being around. “They gave me an opportunity to embrace who I truly was, and am,” recalls Ryan. “They got me my first bottle of men’s cologne, and took me to get short haircuts while also understanding my need to shop in the men’s section.”

Although it was a brief window into his life for the 10 months he was at Marymound, Ryan says the staff gave him the opportunity to be a kid because he didn’t have to take care of himself for a little while. “It was bizarre having adults genuinely taking care of me and expecting nothing in return. It gave me a sense of autonomy and the skills I needed to move forward,” says Ryan. He recalls many fond memories, including: playing cards, the tolerating of his unique sense of humour, going to camp, movies, getting proper dental care, and cooking and baking with staff.

After aging out of the system in 1997, it was a frightening and difficult time for Ryan. “Living alone in my apartment, I called a Marymound caregiver every night and sometimes would talk to them until morning. It really helped, as it showed me I was worth unconditional love. One staff member also provided a lot of mentorship to me as a queer youth by connecting me to some great supports in the community,” recalls Ryan.

Today Ryan works in the concurrent disorders field for an organization that helps drug users to recover and operates under a harm reduction, housing-first framework. He previously worked with street youth and is now attending school with hopes of becoming a Primary Care Paramedic. Ryan also keeps very busy as a musician, photographer and freelance writer.

Ryan’s family consists of friends and former co-workers. He’s been sober since 2009 and has developed a solid relationship with himself which helped cultivate some fulfilling relationships over the years. He is very open to, and is looking forward to additional positive relationships throughout his life.

Ryan currently maintains relationships with many present and former Marymound staff. “To this day, when reconnecting with them, they continue to love me, mentor me and unconditionally accept me. In my heart, they are who I consider to be my parents,” says Ryan.

Paige

“What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger” is an appropriate theme that represents Paige’s life experience.

At 12, Paige experienced a very traumatic event and acted out, sending her life on a downward spiral.

“I felt no one understood me or was there for me, and I didn’t want to talk about things or be around people,” recalls Paige. “I started running away from home to be with my friends and was completely disrespectful to my parents.”

Her father called social services and had Paige placed in a Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) for seven days. From there she went to a co-ed youth shelter in the North End where she continued to run away for weeks at a time and also started taking a variety of drugs, including ecstasy. “It was a horrible, horrible time,” says Paige.

Near the age of 14, she was placed in a Marymound group home. She started to improve but had a setback and lashed out by running away several times and continued her drug usage.

Paige was sent back home to her father by the Manitoba Youth Centre after being charged with uttering threats, and lived with him until she was 15. Her downward spiral continued as she then began to experiment with heavier drugs. “It was a really a bad time for me, as I was in and out of the youth centre until I was about 15 and a half,” Paige remembers.

While under the heavy influence of drugs, she and a friend committed a robbery and Paige was sent back to the Youth Centre for the last time. She was given the ultimatum of either serving her 18 months probation there or to accept house arrest with the probation. She reluctantly selected the house arrest option with probation and was placed in Marymound’s Alternatives secured living unit.

After getting over the initial shock of being in the unit, Paige realized she wanted to get better. She started to closely follow the program and open up to staff. “I ended up just loving the people that worked at Alternatives as they cared so much about my total well-being and helped get me back into the community,” says Paige. “They listened to me, and heard me when I was having so many issues.”

Attending Marymound School since she was 12, Paige fondly recalls the Marymound School staff. “They were amazing in helping me overcome obstacles that enabled me to focus and win numerous school awards,” Paige says. “The school staff, along with the clinicians and unit workers, gave credit to my father for staying by my side and working with them through it all. My Dad was a huge support for me, if he wasn’t around I doubt they would have been able to help me the way I needed.”

In May of 2013 Paige left Marymound, feeling whole again. She moved back home to her loving father and has been there ever since.  This past year, after previous seasonal part-time jobs in retail and the food industry, Paige found a job at a local family restaurant that she loves. She is head hostess. ”It’s a small restaurant, and I have family working there – four cousins and my auntie. This is where I’m going to stay for quite a while,” she says proudly.

Now 18, Paige is planning on living at home while she attains her GED and then plans to attend university to get her psychology degree. “I want to help others the way Marymound helped me,” says Paige. “I couldn’t image doing anything else because my life was turned completely around by the help of everyone here. And even though I can’t stand what happened to me, I wouldn’t change anything because I wouldn’t be me.”

 

Vicki

Vicki is a young adult who wanted to tell her story about her experiences with Marymound. This is her story.

At the age of two, Vicki was placed in the care of Pam who became her mom in every sense of the word.

As a preschooler, Vicki was labelled a problem child. “I was perceived as arrogant and rude,” remembers Vicki. “Teachers weren’t quite sure what to do with me. In kindergarten, I could already read and write and wondered out loud why others couldn’t.” As it turned out, she had Asperger Syndrome (AS), but was not diagnosed until several years later.

When Vicki was nine years old, Pam joined Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care program and it would become a turning point in her life. “Many kids get bounced around from home to home, but I was lucky to find one family that offered stability,” says Vicki.

She attended public school in Dugald but life got more difficult as she grew older. Vicki was bullied because of her undiagnosed AS that caused an inability to filter her comments.  Medication didn’t help her and only made things worse as the side effects created severe depression. “It was a dark time for me as I became very self-destructive from ages 11 to 13,” recalls Vicki.

Pam recognized there was more to the problem. “She was not a bad kid. There had to be a reason for her behaviour.” After conducting her own exhaustive research and attending a seminar on AS, she thought that Asperger Syndrome might be a possibility. Soon after that, Vicki was diagnosed with AS.

Vicki recollects that it was due to Pam’s access to resources and training provided by Marymound that “turned my life around.” Once diagnosed and no longer on medication, Vicki was able to learn to consciously filter her thoughts and better communicate. She played on the high school rugby team and excelled academically. Vicki accelerated her studies and graduated in grade 11, missing the honour role by .6 percent. “I almost cried” says Vicki.

Her first job was with the Marymound Student Education Employment Program (SWEEP). “It was great working at Marymound because the people were all very friendly and supportive,” Vicki says.

She attended College Louis Riel in 2014 and completed an Early Childhood Educator course along with winning the Citizenship Award. Vicki transferred her credits to Red River College and loved her work practicum at St. Amant Centre where she worked with special needs kids.

Vicki currently lives by herself in a downtown apartment. And although good with money, Pam likes to show her how to be a savvy grocery shopper. Pam, as supportive as any mom could be, often tells her, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you are happy.”

Being smart, stubborn and strong-willed, Vicki has survived. She has become a caring, independent, and mature young woman striving to achieve her ultimate potential.

Ashley

After a failed foster placement in rural Manitoba, ‘Ashley’ was brought to the city and became a frequent runaway. At the age of 15, she lived in a downtown hotel, and then a hostile shelter where she was constantly threatened and later taken advantage of and exploited.

She came to Marymound at age 16 and credits the organization for helping to turn her life around. The individual guidance and compassionate care of the Rosehall Group Home staff gave Ashley the stability desperately missing in her life. After two years of thriving from managed care, she became very self-sufficient and responsible by making her own appointments, calling to refill prescriptions, and using a weekly bus pass to attend high school regularly. After school, Ashley would return to her group home and attend transition planning through her Independent Options case worker. Exhibiting such self-sufficient and mature behaviour led to Ashley earning a later curfew on weekends, while also working at a hair salon on Saturdays.

Ashley is now living on her own through the Independent Options Program and is excited about a new job at a fast-food restaurant. She also realizes the need for further education and wants to enroll in a two-year child and youth care program at Red River College. After that she wants to attain a social work degree to help others avoid going through what she has finally overcome.

Ashley recently reconciled with her parents and is currently in high school, scheduled to graduate in June 2015.

‘Ashley’ is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

Jeremy

As a high needs child, ‘Jeremy’ was placed in an emergency shelter and later in two foster homes. Early life trauma exacerbated his extreme and unpredictable behaviour as Jeremy entered Marymound Treatment Foster Care in 2006.

When he first started at Marymound School, Jeremy had difficulty adapting to classroom structure and expectations. After half-day tutoring sessions at home during the following year, he attended full day classes in the school under the guidance of a new teacher. Through a strong relationship with his teacher and consistent support from his foster dad, Jeremy’s behavior started to stabilize. He began to communicate more calmly and follow directions, and understand classroom expectations.

Over the course of one year, Jeremy’s transformation was amazing. He became a positive role model and leader for other students to follow. He was always willing to lend an extra hand and help out anyone in need. Jeremy also enjoyed making sure everyone else followed the classroom rules.

Jeremy also showed his academic and athletic prowess. In the 2007-2008 school year he received an award for most improved student, and the following year received awards for athlete of the year as well as congeniality, courtesy, and attendance awards. Jeremy joined the Hockey Heroes program in 2009 and continues to make his mark on the program as an all-star, mentoring other kids while making sure volunteers are aware of anyconcerns about the program.

Jeremy successfully transitioned out of Marymound into the public school system in 2010 and continued to express his compassion for others by helping students with developmental disabilities. Jeremy is currently in 11th grade and doing very well.

‘Jeremy’ is a pseudonym to protect his privacy.

Rachael

Despite coming from a very unsettling and challenging environment, ‘Rachael’ developed a strong sense of right and wrong as a young teenager. She tried to initiate change in a difficult family situation but it led to being placed into Marymound care along with her sisters.

Rachael progressed through three foster care placements that enabled her to attain goals necessary for a successful transition to independence. The individual foster care providers were all uniquely skilled at providing Rachael with supports specific to her growing interests and needs.

Rachael always responded to guidance and support but realized on her own the importance of a post-secondary education along with the benefits of being supported on an Extension of Care. During this time, Rachael’s motivation and determination were relentless in her pursuit of advancement as she utilized her Extension of Care to its full potential over three years. She earned a high school diploma, completed one year of studies at the University of Manitoba, and recently graduated with a Health Care Aid Diploma from a community college, all while working two part-time jobs.

As Rachael matured from the age of 18 to 21, she discovered her calling of giving back to the community by utilizing her education to support the city’s aging population as a Health Care Aid.

The completion of Rachael’s education was fortuitous, as her three-year Extension of Care recently finished and she has since moved into her own apartment and found full-time employment.

Rachael overcame many early-life challenges through her perseverance and determination to advance and find her place as an independent and successful adult with a promising future.   

‘Rachael’ is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

Brandi

At seventeen years of age Brandi needed to prepare for eventual adulthood but had few independent living skills and a future filled with uncertainty. She came to Marymound in 2012, entering the Young Parents/independent Options Program (YPP/IOP), determined to make something of her life.

Through the program Brandi learned necessary basic life skills and soon started working in the Marymound kitchen where she completed a successful three-month term that included food handling training. Seeing a future possibility, a motivated Brandi became very focused on all aspects of the kitchen as she transitioned to a nearby cafeteria-style restaurant to receive further training.

Brandi has now learned many aspects of a restaurant, including food handling, being a line cook, server and cashier. Her biggest thrill working at the North Main cafeteria was helping cater events for musicians like Johnny Reid, Goo Goo Dolls, and Neil Young. Needless to say, Brandi loves the perks of her job!

Her future is beginning to take shape. She has found a career path through Marymound and would like to go back to school and finished grade 12 before pursuing her dreams of becoming a chef, and then one day owning a café.

Brandi is still part of the IOP and may not yet be a chef, but she already has the right ingredients for success—resiliency with the determination and perseverance of following her dream.

Cheyenne

Cheyenne at age 18, is a petite, well-spoken young lady embarking on an exciting time in her life. In the fall of 2012, she headed to the University of Manitoba with the help of a Marymound educational bursary. “I aspire to be a teacher,” she said in an interview at Marymound in August.

The road to university hasn’t always been an easy one for Cheyenne. “When I was in middle school, my marks were low. People didn’t believe in me,” she said, explaining how classmates called her derogatory names. “The teachers knew I was a kid in care – “one of those” – who they didn’t expect to amount to much. I decided to prove them wrong.”

Cheyenne has been in foster care since the age of two, and has lived with Joanne L. (who she calls “Mom”) and her family, in Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care Program for the past 12 years.

“Nothing in school came easy for me,” Cheyenne wrote in her bursary application. “I was never the fastest, smartest or the most talented, but that never mattered to me. Whatever I lacked, I made up for with hard work and perseverance.”

By the end of grade eight, she had made it onto the Honour Roll and stayed there throughout the rest of her high school career. Cheyenne graduated with honours this year from Springfield Collegiate Institute with marks (all in the 80s and 90s) that gained her early acceptance into university. To top things off, she also received five awards, excelling in math and music. She also took first place in an art contest.

Cheyenne can hardly wait to start the five-year program and aims to be a high school English or drama teacher. “You can do so much with words,” she explained. “You can describe things – you can express your opinions and views.” The spirited teenager also loves to read, especially enjoying books by Cornelia Funk and Kit Pearson, but also expressing a penchant for Shakespeare.

When she’s not doing schoolwork, Cheyenne enjoys painting with acrylic and watercolours and sculpts with wire. She still plays her flute every day and played in three bands during high school. “I’m always doing something,” she laughed. “I’ve played soccer since I was seven and like biking.” She is working full time over the summer at the concession booth at Bird’s Hill Beach, saving half her paycheque for university.

“I never thought I’d go to university,” Cheyenne admitted. “When I heard that I received the bursary from Marymound, I was so excited!”

Financial support is only one way Marymound has benefited Cheyenne. “I’ve developed relationships through Marymound, “she said. “I am good friends with Jodie (her foster care case manager),” she said. “Even when she’s not visiting our home, we talk on the phone and sometimes go to movies.  I am very close with my sister Lisa who is in her 30s. I can share anything with her.”

Cheyenne has some words of encouragement for other youth in care who have goals and dreams. “Lots of youth don’t know what they want to do. You can’t always decide on the spot. Find something you really enjoy and if you love it, go for it.”

Maiya

15-year-old Maya resides in a Marymound Group Home. In the past year and a half, she has settled in well. Despite not having attended school in a long time when she arrived at Marymound, she has now earned all her Grade 9 credits at the nearby community high school, and will be finishing Grade 10 this year. She has set a goal to graduate and is proud that she will be the only member of her family to do so on time. She is considering her options regarding post-secondary education.

Maiya is now able to have successful home visits, something that was not possible when she first came to Marymound.

Braeden

Braeden is a nine-year-old student at Marymound School who has made leaps and bounds since first coming to school. Where he used to keep to himself, showing little interest in schoolwork, he now has come out of his shell to be a positive role model in class. Braeden completes all his assignments, participates in several options classes and now has many friends in the class. He interacts with all his peers and is the first person to include others in a game of activity, helping them if needed. He even encourages classmates to be respectful of one another.