Currently Ryan sees his mother about once per month, however this is not a constant because of issues of reliability. As Ryan’s father was deported to his birth country (one of the Caribbean Islands) during his mother’s pregnancy, he had never met his father. He knew he had adult half-sisters in the province but had not had any contact with them since infancy. He did not have any knowledge of his extended paternal family. As a biracial child, Ryan expressed feeling that he could not identify with his Caucasian mother, and at times, reported wishing that he could change the colour of his skin. He identified feeling different and excluded.
- Ryan has been in care for 10 years working with the same child service worker from FCSGW. He has had many difficulties in finding a safe and stable home because of challenging behavior which has resulted in him moving from foster home to foster home and group home to group home over the past 10 years. Ryan has lived in over 10 foster homes in those 10 years and several group homes, with little stability in his life around his future. Ryan has had a lot of mental health supports, specialized education supports, access to recreation activities, as he is a dedicated and successful soccer player.
- What Ryan has not had is permanency and only knew of 6 people in his family. His most stable relationships have been with group home staff and his long term FCSGW case worker.
- Ryan was chosen for Family Finding in 2012 because he was seen by FCSGW staff as a lonesome child without plans for permanence. FCSGW Family Finder Amy took on this case.
- Through working with the Family Finding method by talking with known family members, Amy has discovered over 60 family members that Ryan did not know before.
- Amy met with Ryan for the first time to complete an exercise to find out what Ryan wants and needs in his life. Unfortunately at the time, Ryan felt hopeless and said that he wanted “nothing”.
- Amy had heard that Ryan’s father had moved from Canada when he was only 1 year old. She contacted authorities in his home country and in what seemed like finding a needle in a haystack, she was able to locate him after 2 weeks of searching.
- Ryan’s father provided information about two half siblings of Ryan’s who are in their 30s, living in Toronto. It has been a process to engage these siblings, however at this time, there is a chance that Ryan will be in touch with them to some degree throughout his life. However when contacted they did not want to be involved because of their painful history with their birth father.
- Since finding Ryan’s father, an FCSGW worker flew to visit his large family and held a blended family meeting where all voices were heard. It turned out that Ryan has a safe and stable extended family in his father’s home country that wanted him to come for a visit. As a result of Family Finding, in March, 2013 Ryan and a case worker flew down to meet his father, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It was a wonderful visit where loving connections were made and Ryan’s behavior was positive the entire trip. Ryan intends to return to visit his family for Christmas this year.
- Since Family Finding, Ryan’s behavior has changed in his group home. He is getting along with others in a healthier manner, he is doing well in school and has gone from hopeless to being full of hopes and dreams. In addition to his father’s family, he has also connected with an aunt in Ontario who attends his soccer games regularly.
- Ryan has now expressed that he would one day like to move live with his father’s family. Many of those details and decisions are underway, but the one thing we know is that Ryan has found lifelong connections and knows the story of his life which has provided him with something to dream and plan for in his life. As a young 12 year old, Ryan now has the ability to focus on regular 12 year old plans and not have to worry about being alone without a family when he is an adult. His father’s family are making plans to have Ryan come visit regularly and to help him make plans for his future.
Update - January 2014
Ryan was connected with his birth father and extended paternal family and his half-sisters through the efforts of Family Finding.
With the funding by UTLC, Ryan was able to travel to visit his father in the Caribbean prior to the Christmas Holidays. He stayed with this father, and his father’s partner, for a one-week period. During the week he visited with many extended family members. Ryan had already met his father and extended family in the summer of 2013 and the reunion was exciting and a positive healing experience.
How was the visit? Was it productive?
Ryan identified feeling incredibly welcome and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of unconditional love from not only his father, but from his extended relatives. He stated that one of the “best things” about being with his paternal family is that he is “not the only black person”. He remarked about feeling a sense of belonging, and can see himself moving there as an adult. He loved the food and the weather, as well.
Being able to add to his life story has been important to Ryan. He appears to be more settled and goal-oriented. He has also been observed to present himself with more confidence and pride.
How have these visits affected their permanency plans?
Ryan’s father and extended family feel that the best opportunity for Ryan’s success is to stay in Canada in order to have his education here. Ryan has begun to build life-long connections with his family and they are looking forward to continuing to nurture these relationships throughout their lives together as a family.