From Diana's notebook

Hi, <<First Name>>. Diana, here! This week, I’m guest-writing Discourse’s newsletter on child welfare. My first month as a youth media fellow has been fulfilling and exciting, but it’s also stirred up a lot of complex emotions in me. As a 19-year-old who’s navigating B.C.’s child welfare system, the work I’m doing with Brielle hits close to home.

For the last four years, I’ve been tangled up in the system, where I struggle to find a sense of belonging. As a white woman who comes from a middle-class family and has the privilege of attending UBC, I often feel guilty about the support I’ve received from B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development. I worry that my hardships haven’t been hard enough.

Unlike some kids in government care, I’ve never experienced the trauma of being moved countless times between foster homes. I’ve never been homeless or exposed to alcohol and drug addiction in my family. I haven’t experienced the inherent barriers that come with navigating the system as an Indigenous person. Whenever I told classmates in high school that I had a social worker, they’d look me up and down with skepticism, since I wore nice clothes and was, well, white. 

But the work I’ve done with Discourse so far has challenged my sense of misplacement, just as it challenges mainstream narratives about child welfare. Through my research, I’ve come to realize how complex and intriguing this system is. No two stories are the same.

I’ve been struck by the diversity of communities affected by the child welfare system. I’m learning how low-income families, Indigenous people and women are especially impacted. Every time I interview a lawyer or an advocate for families, I feel a little more connected, and this sense of belonging compels me to dig deeper. When people feel connected to an issue — like they have a role to play — they start to really care.

This realization has brought up many questions for me as a young reporter with lived experience in the system: How can we produce journalism that makes people feel that the issue of child welfare is relevant to them? How can we report in a way that recognizes the diversity of experiences? How can we tell stories that inspire individuals and institutions to take action? How can we make room for all youth to be part of this conversation?

I’m grateful for this newfound sense of belonging, and hope to inspire the same in others through my work with Discourse. If you have any questions, feedback or tips, send me an email or tweet — and if you liked this newsletter, please ask your friends to subscribe.

Thanks for reading,

Here's what we're working on...

Brielle and I are investigating the barriers that families face when they’re in conflict with the child welfare system and navigating the courts. We’ve been interviewing child-protection lawyers, and learning about how single mothers are particularly impacted. If you have a story, we’d love to hear from you. Email or write us via Facebook.

Meanwhile, Dylan’s working with Brielle to nail down the itinerary for our upcoming child welfare workshop series next week. It’s for journalists and media-makers who want to deepen their understanding of this complex system, develop reporting skills and collaborate. Please share!

Dylan and Brielle have also been writing stories that explore ethical questions around child welfare reporting, specifically how to navigate the tension between protecting identities of vulnerable youth and families, while respecting their right to self-expression. Check out the latest article in this series.

Quote of the Week

  • It’s been a real pleasure connecting with someone who’s also been part of the child welfare system. Dylan Cohen, my fellow fellow (haha, but seriously), wrote about belonging in this piece for The Buzz, an online magazine from the Children’s Aid Foundation. Here’s an excerpt:
"Cultural identity remains a very important part of growing up that youth in care often do not find available. In general, young people are trying to find belonging … My Indigenous identity came out most strongly when I could connect with my experiences in the child welfare system. Eventually, I found ceremony and traditional practice that have become important parts of who I am.


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