Chris Tait and his older sister Marilyn Tait sit at a picnic table at the beach and sift through an old family photo album.
“Some of these I don’t remember at all so it’s really cool,” Chris says. “Like I feel like that one I kind of remember but that one I don’t so that’s cool.”
He and Marilyn, along with five other siblings were all put into care at a young age.
For a while, Chris was in the same home with a few of his brothers.
But things didn’t work out.
He was moved around and says that from the age of three to when he aged out, he was in 20 different foster homes in Sechelt, B.C.
He says he endured a lot and his memory of his childhood isn’t great.
The photos, he says, are like filling in a childhood he never knew.
“It’s like eerie seeing yourself when you are super small,” he says. “But it’s cool because it paints a better picture.
Chris says his connection to family has helped him.
He reconnected with his sister when he was 17, and decided to share Family Day together along with a few friends – creating some new memories.
Tait says he has overcome a lot of obstacles since aging out of the system.
He says no connection to his culture was difficult growing up.
But he has since received an award for advocacy work – and now works with Discourse media as a researcher specializing in online data journalism.
“I think it all starts with looking at what we have and building upon that,” he says. “Somebody told me that early on you can create change in your own life that’s how you can create systems change.”
At the Vancouver office of the Discourse, he is currently reviewing internal audits obtained from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. He’s looking for clues as whether the system is improving – and if commitments are being followed through with.
“I never really thought I would get to the level of reading audits,” he says. “The fact that I got an opportunity to work with discourse to give back and also be employed and all the good things is exciting.”
Another shining start quickly making a name for herself is Cheyenne Andy.
When she was just a few months old, she along with her two siblings were taken from their home in Bella Coola First Nation and placed into foster care with a non-Indigenous family in Ladner, B.C.
They stayed with that family their entire lives and says she had a loving and supportive upbringing.
Their birth mother was unable to care for the kids because she struggled with mental health issues.
But her foster parents ensured all the children remained in contact with her – including taking them back to Bella Coola a few times to meet their family.
“I really formed a really strong relationship with the foster parents,” she says. “And I called them mom and dad and I’m still really close to all the relatives within their family.”
Despite being in a stable home, she says she still had her own challenges about her identity.
She says she yearned for more of a connection to her culture.
“I feel like it was really hard to stay in touch with family,” says Andy. “But I ended up learning a lot more once I was older and more comfortable my foster parents and my social worker gave me the opportunity to learn more once I was ready.”
After graduating high school, Andy says it was at the urging of her social worker that she become an advocate for others.
“At a young age I had a really strong voice and I was advocating for things within my own life that were just very personal,” she says.
Now, at the age of 24, she works with the representative for Children and Youth as a youth engagement coordinator.
She now travels across B.C. teaching other Indigenous children about their rights while in care.
“I have gone and taught rights about the UN convention on the rights of a child, the rights of kids in care and the rights of Indigenous peoples,” she says. “I think that’s really important work.
“I’m very passionate about this job I tell people when I first got the job that this is my dream job I’m very happy with where I am and I would not be here without my foster parents or my previous social worker.”