My sister and I had been homeschooled, private schooled, and in the Catholic as well as the public school systems by the time I was 11 or 12 years old. My mum decided to buy a house for us in Collingwood because we were bussed everywhere from Glenn Huron, where we lived at the time, and high school was fast approaching for me. So she moved us into the city, got a job, bought a condo and we ended up attending a public elementary school right down a little trail from us. We could walk there in 60 seconds. It was a pretty rough school, compared to other schools I’d been to. We lived in a good area of town but this school was just like a little pocket in the town that went unnoticed.
Collingwood is where my memories kick in. I was super religious and got really good grades, but I also had behavioural issues, and my mum got my sister & me into therapy in Collingwood for those issues. I was diagnosed with depression at such a young age, my sister was diagnosed O.D.D. at a ridiculously young age, but there was also a lot of fun stuff in Collingwood too. My mum had a good job but was also on Disability, so she got us into camps provided by Disability. We also had excess income coming in from my mum’s job, so we didn’t lack anything (except perhaps stability). We also had free reign of all activity rooms and swimming pools and all the amenities at my mum’s work. We had a car and took our friends on road trips and up to Blue Mountain. There were always festivals up at Blue Mountain and rock climbing and stuff… just events going on all the time.
Along with all of this fun, there was also my mum’s mental health issues she was dealing with. She’d had herself in therapy long before she got my sister and I hooked up with a therapist, my mum was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the marriage broke down and ended up with a hospitalization two years after moving to Collingwood. When she was hospitalized in Penetanguishene hospital, my sister and I were put into the foster care system for a period of time. But I’ll get to that.
First, let’s take a look at this elementary school because it’s kind of where my life started to spiral. Although I had behavioural issues, nothing bad really happened until I tried to fix this one guy. This guy was the school stoner and constantly skipped school and rebelled. I had parental inversion from witnessing my parents’ violent marriage finally end and from comforting my mother and always trying to fix things in the home, so when I couldn’t fix their marriage, and couldn’t fix my mum’s mental health issues, I tried to turn my attention onto this stoner from my school. I didn’t have a thought process this long back then, of course… if I had, I would’ve realized I needed trauma therapy and wouldn’t have wasted my time. Or maybe I would’ve. Everything happens for a reason, after all this I still believe that to be true.
So this guy from my elementary school, let’s call him Zack. Zack was a total stoner and didn’t care about life at all. He was rude, abrasive, and sarcastic, and most of the time he wore the same clothes to school for 3 days in a row, and barely brushed his teeth. I was bullied throughout school from as early as I can remember, so when people were bullying this kid for being a “dirtbag stoner”, I felt bad for him. I wanted to help. I ended up friends with him and after a while of hanging out, we made a bet. I bet him that I could get him to quit smoking weed in a week and if I couldn’t accomplish that task, I would smoke a puff of weed and see how I feel. I was confident I could change him, I was absolutely sure of myself.
You can probably already guess, but he didn’t quit for me. And so I ended up smoking. From the first time I got high, it was a slippery slope from then on out. I started drinking, doing ecstasy, mushrooms, anything I could get my hands on. My mum was getting increasingly worse mentally and I was like an ostrich with my head in the sand, oblivious to her mental health. I thought the insanity was normal, my whole life had been insanity. My mum’s bipolar episodes finally reached a breaking point though and she was hospitalized in Penetanguishene mental health hospital. My father was unavailable and never secured housing at this time, he lived in a camper and drove a truck, so he couldn’t take my sister and I. So when my mum was hospitalized, my sister and I were put into the foster care system.
By this time, I was angry, violent, rude, & mean. I had absolutely no care left for anything in the world. My sister & I were separated, placed into different homes, in different cities at times! It was honestly disgusting. We had behavioural issues so that was the reason Children’s services said as to why they put us in different homes, but I can’t understand their thought process. We had no father around, he was God-knows-where, our mother was hospitalized on a mental health form, and we were left to the system. We didn’t even have each other, our last family member that we COULD’VE had, because they split us up. This angered me even more. I was so angry. I caused a lot of problems in a LOT of different foster homes. I smashed things, snuck out after curfew, stole spray paint and tagged down alleyways, smoked in the house after they told me not to, I just did so much hateful stuff because I was such an angry little teenager! My sister and I both acted out in the foster homes, me more so than her though, perhaps because I was older, I don’t know.
After throwing me from foster home to foster home for a couple of months, I had acquired some criminal charges (for running away, for graffiti, for the mischief of smashing things in people’s homes), so they put me into a group home which was monitored 24/7 and you couldn’t leave past the driveway or you’d be considered ‘AWOL’ and they’d have police pick you up. I remember that group home being such a tragic scene. I shared a room with a girl who had scars on her arms going all the way up to her shoulders on both arms, just like tattoos of self-harm… I’d never seen so many in one place at one time.
I had started self-harming when I was in the 8th grade, and it carried with me into high school. I never cut deep enough to even draw blood at first though, nothing that would leave a scar… they were like little cat scratches. I often wonder what happened to that girl I shared a room with, but along with the many rules they had at this trash group home was the rule that you couldn’t add anyone on social media or get each others’ numbers or anything. It was like group isolation. You were supposed to remain in your own bubble in a house full of girls. Obviously, there were a lot of disputes, and these girls even managed to get high, inhaling fumes from paint or whatever it took. This place was the worst. Honestly. It was absolutely the worst. The staff were cruel and uncaring. It gets me so upset thinking about it because I wonder how many girls are being treated like garbage in the system when they’re just hurting. Society and Children’s Aid services want to act like the kid is just a bad kid and needs to be rehabilitated, when really they just need therapy! These poor kids… They go through way more than any child or adolescent should.
One of the girls at the group home put soup in my hat (one of the only baseball caps I had at the time) – I remember being more upset about this hat than any rational person would ever be about a hat that had no other value other than being a hat… but I SNAPPED. Like, when I say I had anger issues… I ended up kicked out of that group home with a charge of assault with a weapon because this girl that had put the soup in my hat, she called me on to fight, so I did… and I had been wearing a ring, and a ring apparently is a weapon, which I did not know then… I definitely know now. I won the fight and the prize was the criminal charge. That was always how it went in foster care and group homes. Whoever loses the fight really they actually win because they get to stay, whereas the other kid is shipped off to a new destination, to try again.
After the group home kicked me out, I was placed into a detention centre and ran away from that barefoot. I landed in the Roy McMurtry, which has since been converted into a young men’s only jail I believe, but I was there when it was both genders. The trauma just kept accumulating, and I had no intention of stopping. I was spiralling and continued to spiral for a long time.
Certainly, not every child from a dysfunctional home ends up being trafficked, but it definitely contributes to their vulnerability and the likelihood of ending up in a situation that puts them at a greater risk. Along with that, there are so many scholarly articles and research done which proves that children who have been through the foster care or Children’s Aid system are at a much higher risk of exploitation and eventual trafficking. These children are not loved and cared for as children should be, so they search for love elsewhere. That’s exactly what I did, and that’s exactly what countless other children end up doing. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. I’m just glad I found my way out.