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"Ultimately, my journey through the foster care system helped me to become a resilient and independent person. For any young person out there who may be currently struggling in care, keep persevering, focus on your strengths, and you will be rewarded in due time."

Rick Pittman shares #HisStory:

"Being a ‘system kid’ was a frightening experience and placed a great burden on me during my formative years. Not having support from family and being a ‘ward of the court’ was not something to advertise. Rather, it was a source of shame and great anxiety. Perhaps I was ‘bad’ as many adults had told me up to this point. I felt that I deserved to be in care and was just a problem child after all. Fortunately, that was not the case but rather a distorted reality brought on by years of physical and psychological abuse from the very people who should have been protecting me.

My life in foster care began at approximately age 12.  Up to this point in my life, I had lived with my parents while they were married until age 7, and had stints of living with my father and mother individually after they divorced. I had experienced physical and psychological abuse, witnessed many traumatic incidents, and generally was experiencing what I know today as anxiety disorder. After a life-threatening illness at age 11, I was told by my father that I was too much to handle and he sent me, with only one garbage bag of clothes and $5, on a bus across the province to stay with my mother. Unfortunately, my mother soon after decided to place me in care and my father refused to take me back.

After being placed in care, I lived in approximately six foster homes within a 3-4 year period until I turned 16 years old. At age 16, I was eligible for a program offered by Choices for Youth. Although I did not know it at that point, this program was the definitive turning point in my young life. Through this program, I was paired up with another young person from a similar background and lived with the assistance of two amazing youth care workers. Choices for Youth provided the stability and empowerment I needed and they allowed me to reach my potential.

After I aged out of care at 21, I was abruptly severed from the only support system (financial and social) that I had ever known. I was in the midst of a three-year college program and was suddenly on my own. Fortunately, I had learned how to budget and be resourceful through the program at Choices for Youth. Ultimately, I graduated college with a three-year diploma in Computer Studies (Management Information Systems). I later went on to complete a Business Administration diploma from community college, a Bachelor of Commerce (General Management) and am currently nearing completion of a Master of Health Evaluation from the University of Waterloo.  I always knew that education was my ‘ticket out’ and enjoyed learning based on that premise.

Currently, I work as a Policy, Planning and Research Analyst with the Department of Health and Community Services. I have worked with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador since 2010.  Like most aspects of my life, things did not come easily and I had to gradually work my way up from a Clerk Typist position while studying in the evenings for university courses.

Though I am in a much better life situation today, I still have issues as a result of this childhood trauma, but I am working on those and continuing to grow as a person. Life is a journey after all rather than a destination. In closing, I would like to share a quote by Mahatma Gandi; “Adversity is the mother of progress.”

Foster Nation