‘You just have to find it within yourself’
When Cassandra Mazur, a former youth in care, began to piece her life back together, she had one goal in mind. That goal was to give her daughter the life she never had.
“Pretty much everything I’ve done in the past three years has been focused on her future and mine,” said Mazur, a 23-year-old former youth in care, about her three-year-old.
Mazur is just one example of the young people being acknowledged and celebrated during B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week, June 3-9, 2019. It’s a week to raise awareness about the barriers they face and fight the stigma that comes with being a youth in and from care.
Mazur survived an abusive childhood and was in and out of care from the age of seven. She experienced life in a group home and overcame being on the streets, a young pregnancy, trouble with her baby’s father and post-partum depression. Then she faced the worst: losing custody of her five-month-old daughter.
“One day I just woke up and realized I wasn’t helping myself. I recall saying to my worker, ‘By the end of this week, I’m going to have a job and a place.’ My social worker knew me well enough to know that if I said it, I was going to do it.” In less than seven days, she was working nights at a nearby fast-food restaurant and living with a friend.
“You just have to find it within yourself,” Mazur said. “You have to use all the bad stuff that’s happened to you as your motivation.”
She credits a foster parent, a single woman who cared for her during her longest foster placement, as being one of her most important supporters. “She showed me that no matter what, she’d always be there. I believed her because she never gave up on me.” Mazur also saw a trauma therapist paid for by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
After a second job in the food industry, she realized that there was little room for advancement. Mazur wanted to work at something she enjoyed that could help her create the kind of future she had in mind. By then, she shared custody 50-50 with her daughter’s father following a gradual process of supervised, then unsupervised, visits.
Around that time, she noticed a care aide program at a local private college. Taking that training allowed her to qualify for funding through the Agreements with Young Adults program (AYA), which provides living expenses while former youth in care attend educational or skills training. She graduated in November 2018.
Month by month, Mazur found a way to put her life back together. Now, she works part time as a care aide with the elderly and people with disabilities. “It makes me feel so good to help people,” she said.
She credits her boyfriend of two years for encouraging her to keep upgrading. This winter, she intends to apply to Okanagan College’s licensed practical nursing program. “I couldn’t make this all work without the funding I’ve been getting,” she said, referring to AYA. “I feel like I’m at a really good place right now. My daughter’s father and I have a decent co-parenting relationship.” Mazur is again the primary caregiver.
“Even if I sometimes find it hard to do what I have to do, I do it for my daughter.”
Most of all, she is glad that her daughter can count on what she never had when she herself was a child: both parents to turn to when she needs them, who are in a decent co-parenting relationship with each other and who love her very much.
To find out more about AYA, visit:
Child and Youth in Care Week and community events:
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