Welcome to a very special post. I'd like to think it will convey some really critical information, as well as, perhaps, pull on some heart strings. And better yet- help us tap into a part of ourselves that we often ignore- and an untapped area of empathy.
And that, would be kids in foster care. Despite there being hundreds of thousands of kids 'in care' across North America, their recognition within an established, swept under the rug system rarely draws our attention to their plight. I'm working on an initiative that I want to direct Zimt's resources towards, directly. The initiative is to support kids 'aging out' of foster care- many kids in care no longer qualify for financial assistance from the government once they reach 18. That lack of support, coupled with their generally tumultuous life experiences, leads to an increased rate of suicide amongst teens aging out of foster care as well as kids in care in general.
I've never been in foster care. I've never fostered a kid. But, I've known for about a quarter century that there exists a huge problem- there are so many kids out there without stability, without safety. Love is often there, but how it manifests can be really complicated- those feeling the love are often deep within the trenches of addiction or in a cycle of trauma. Leads to feelings of hopelessness.
When I found out about kids who don't have parents (or, parent- I had one myself) to care for them, I was really bothered. I was maybe 5 or 6, and clearly had a sense of my own vulnerability. Knowing that there were kids around my age, younger, older, out there without this support, and even these very basics troubled me- and I've never forgotten about this.
For many years, it was my own aspiration to become a foster mom and an adoptive mom. If life were to take a financially stable turn tomorrow, I would be much more inclined to pursue this dream, finally being able to extend my own security to those who need it most. But, reality is what it is, and despite almost a decade of giving it my all, the time and money are not there. All kids deserve the best, and 'my-hypothetical-better-scenario-kids' are no different.
But, there is something we all can do, myself included. Growing the recognition of inherent dignity to kids in foster care is a priority to me.
They've dealt with way more than enough and with almost no resources to do so. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, neglect, homelessness- and that's just the beginning. And also, somewhat of an end. Generally, these situations don't develop out of thin air, but are intrenched in family history. For those people of the BIPOC community, this stems from systemic racism. If somebody reports the parents, the kids are taken by the state/province and placed with a foster family- immediately, if they are lucky. I say that, because you know what? Some end up having to sleep in an office building until they can be 'placed'. Yeah- kids go with their garbage bag of whatever items they could take from their homes, to go sleep in an office building.
Some end up having to sleep in an office building until they can be 'placed'.
Then, they hopefully go to a foster home. Maybe the best case scenario- especially if a stable relative hasn't stepped up to take their relative kid in.
And then who knows. Foster parents are of course required to undergo training for their license, but, the training is often cited as being rather lacking. (... still more than biological parents are required to have but, I digress.). Also, and unfortunately, abuse may well continue within foster homes- these are not all stable people (though I should note, sooner than later, that many are- there are good people who become good foster parents. I feel badly just putting this in parenthesis, because dedicated, loving foster parents are invaluable.). There are many kids in need of help, case workers are overwhelmed and the system is a wreck. Kids end up having to pay for it.
Kids also end up being bounced around from home to home- and that often means, from school to school. Think about how fundamentally unstable that is- imagine if you had that upbringing. Families are separated- foster parents can specify which age groups/gender(s)/etc they are open to welcoming. And not all kids within one biological or 'first' family fall into this- the agency just needs to put the kids somewhere so, they often get separated. And then if an opportunity comes up for them to live together again in another home, this often leaves the eldest child, who often takes the role of parent, with a horrible decision- choosing whether to leave a home they have come to know or being reunited with their siblings.
There's just so much more. There are so many horror stories- foster kids are often treated differently than the foster parent's biological kids. I've heard more than once of all the cleaning, all the chores being delegated to only the foster kids. Sometimes, they are not allowed to eat with the rest of the family. This is damaging. And so cruel. And it happens to this day.
The lack of recognition surrounding kids in foster care is overwhelming. I actually cannot comprehend how so many wonderful kids are treated like second class citizens, through absolutely no fault of their own. And the fault in and of itself is complicated- it ultimately lies on our shoulders. If we took a step back, and got into a better mindset of valuing those who are most vulnerable- simply for their existence as sentient beings, just like you, your friends, your family- I cannot imagine how life on this earth would be. Better, certainly.
So that's the goal... that's one of the ways I would like to help those less considered, phenomenally valuable members of our planet.
Make chocolate. Sell chocolate. Send money.
Will be partnering with a few organizations over the course of Zimt's existence to achieve this, in this particular realm. One includes Aunt Leah's - they work with youth aging out of foster care, providing them with resources to successfully transition into their next stage of life.
I can't imagine how terrifying it would be to be a 17 year old, grappling to heal and survive a history of abuse and/or neglect, disruption and instability, staring down the barrel of the rest of life- without a family to fall back on for support.
So, I'll bake some cookies for you, sell them to you, and give some of that money to them. On repeat!
Thank you for caring- extra thanks for doing.
Emma of Zimt
PS- here are some resources you can take a look at for further information. I've just given a brief description of some of the key takeaways gleaned from reading the articles, but there is a lot of diverse information.
The link between homelessness and youth in care
Indigenous children and impacts of colonialism on representation in out-of-home care