The Ministry of Children and Family Development is using the story of a Kelowna mom to help celebrate B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week this week.
Cassandra Mazur, 23, was a youth in care who overcame a difficult childhood and now seems to have her life on track for her and her daughter.
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 prospect of losing custody of her five-month-old daughter, according to a news release from the ministry.
“One day I just woke up and realized I wasn’t helping myself,” she said. “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.
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,” she said. “I believed her because she never gave up on me.”
Mazur also saw a trauma therapist paid for by the ministry.
After a second job in the food industry, she realized that there was little room for advancement and sought something that offered a brighter future. 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.
She now 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,” she said.