Janay’s long and winding road

Originally from Sandy Bay Reserve, Janay had to grow up quickly.

Under the care of her great grandmother at two years of age, she was put into the system after her great grandmother passed away when Janay was 11-years-old. She had brief placements during that time with other relatives.

At 12, she was placed in care with another family member, but her transient life continued as she jumped from relative to relative looking for stability and a sense of belonging. She recalls her struggles with bouts of depression and the numerous schools she attended, causing her to skip classes that affected her grades.

After three years in Crane River Reserve, she bounced from Dominion City to Brandon with more distant relatives before making her way back to her mother’s care in Winnipeg in 2015.

Janay entered the Independent Options Program (IOP) in 2017 and qualified for stage 2 that allows her to live in her own apartment. This opportunity was enabled by her resilience and independence gained from having to look after herself and siblings at a young age. Janay’s IOP fit was also due to her optimism, despite the constant turmoil and changes in her life. “I always thought of it as a new start,” says Janay.

On a recommendation from her Case Manager at IOP, Janay completed the Indigenous Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Program which helped solidify her direction in life. Her great grandfather (and foster parent) had a strong influence that shaped a path for Janay. “Before him, I didn’t know much about my culture even though my parents spoke Ojibway fluently. He made me want to learn more and be a better person,” says Janay. “He disciplined me more than the other kids because I think he had higher expectations for me. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about my culture throughout the years and from being at Marymound too.”

Now 21, Janay works for Marymound’s Cultural department and enjoys engaging with the youth who relate to her as she assists the mentors during many outings and activities. “I get to share my knowledge and experiences with the youth. I can relate to kids when they are not having a good day or feeling down, put myself in their shoes and help make them feel better, which also makes me feel good.”

Janay has a 14-month-old baby who she adores. She is grateful to have support from her mom and her baby’s father’s mom who alternate care while Janay is at work or school.

Although Janay has aged out of care, she is still living in her own apartment with her baby and now has a job, a car, and everything else she needs to lead an independent life. She still has access to IOP and calls her case worker if she needs help with something.

“IOP has helped me a lot to become more reliable while also learning to budget and save which has been a huge benefit,” says Janay.  “They helped me reach quite a few goals, including helping me overcome problems with my driver’s license.  I then saved as much as I could and with some help from a relative, bought a car so I could transport my baby to daycare with family and get to work on time.”

Her contract is up in December at Marymound’s cultural department, and as she finishes up her high school credits she would like to get another part-time or full-time job helping youth if possible, or work in the Marymound kitchen. “I plan on finishing up a couple of courses to get my grade 12,” says Janay. “And then I plan on taking social work at Red River College next year and becoming a youth care practitioner.”

Janay is on a positive path and she feels fortunate to have guidance and help when needed.  “I would highly recommend IOP for many youth out there as they get you on your game and keep you there, and I like that as they don’t let you slack,” Janay says with a smile.