They say it’s your birthday

Earlier this month, she turned 19. She is now officially an adult. Not that she ever had a childhood.

I’d tell you her name, but I can’t. Besides, it wouldn’t mean anything to you.

This might.

In the fall of 2006, when she was just 16, she was, briefly, a media sensation when she landed in provincial youth court facing 32 criminal charges involving incidents that had occurred in and around group homes where she’d been living.

Her lawyer told Judge Pam Williams she was a “troubled” girl who needed daily psychiatric care. She wasn’t getting it, the lawyer said, because the province had failed to provide the necessary resources. Frustrated, Judge Williams ordered then-Community Services Minister Judy Streatch—the official legal guardian for all 2,000 kids her department had placed “in care”—to personally attend a case conference to discuss how to get the girl the help everyone agreed she needed.

And then, of course, all hell broke loose. A cabinet minister responsible for an individual child? It just wasn’t on. In the end, the judge rescinded her unprecedented order.

But it didn’t matter.

By then, the girl had disappeared. And no one seemed eager to find her.

I did. Ten months later. We met in a Subway restaurant. I was doing a story about “Lost Children” for The Coast and I wanted to know about her life in care, and what she remembered of life with her mother.

“I remember she used to buy me cats,” she told me. “And we fed the swans. We moved around a lot too. I remember that.”

She couldn’t remember how many foster families she’d lived with. She remembered none could cope with her. “I was frustrated,” she says. She missed her mother.

In 1999, when she was just nine years old, community services officials obtained court approval to remove her from her mother’s care because—they claimed—they could raise her better than her mother.

The girl’s mother wasn’t a perfect parent. She grew up in an abusive home herself, got shunted to foster care, became pregnant at 15. She had no idea how to be a mother. “If only they’d helped my parents be better parents,” she told me sadly. “If only they’d helped me…”

They didn’t. Instead, they took her daughter. By all accounts, they didn’t such a good job.

Now the girl is 19, an adult, on her own. The cycle continues.

Happy Birthday.

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