Down the “White Rabbit” Hole

(Jefferson Airplane -White Rabbit) “Don’t you want somebody to love you…”


After being told to go to the school with my suit case, I was picked up by my social worker after classes were done. I was taken to a receiving home. A temporary placement, until I went to my permanent home. I didn’t know that the people I lived with, worked for the youth assessment center, and took many children into their home that were headed for institutionalization. I liked this couple and even asked to stay with them. They said no and explained that they do not keep any children permanently. This just reaffirmed for me that no one wanted me, and that I was unlovable. The one saving grace is I was able to continue attending Hillcrest, at least until I was taken to my permanent placeDur my time there I was able to visit my family one more time before I went to my permanent placement.

They were living in smokey lake at that time and it was a funny experience for me. I did not spend much time with my mother at all. However, spent all my short visit with my siblings. They showed me around the house, and the barn yard. We were all in the barn yard and there was this goat, I was scared of it. “HAHA” When that dang goat started running up to me I got freaked out and ran towards a shed screaming , which scared the younger ones and they ran screaming behind me. The youngest sibling being the smallest was lagging behind and climbed the shed door and got his foot stuck on the top of the door and just hung there.

I would like to say I was brave and protected the young ones, but quite the contrary it was their goat they needed to protect me!! When I got over my fright, I stopped and looked at the situation and let out a whopping Laugh; my mom said she could hear me all the way to the house from the barn yard, my laughter that is. My siblings were shocked to hear such a loud booming laugh. I suppose the shock was because I was typically very quiet.Then they started laughing too. That was the last time I ever genuinely ever laughed for a very very long time. This was to be the last time I would see My brother and sisters for many years.

I wasn’t with my temporary family more than a couple of weeks before I was once again told to pack and be ready to go to my new placement. I really wish I could have stayed with them, I think I would have done well there. However, the wife was very close to having her child, and they were not taking in any more troubled children.

You can imagine my shock and confusion when they took me to Edmonton Juvenile Detention center. My Social Worker didn’t say anything to me, she just took me into the intake office and left straight away. I think it pained her to be taking me to that place.I was to never see her again as she transferred from child welfare to another department. I can’t say that I blame her, At this time the Juvenile Delinquent system was set up as such that you did not have to commit a crime to be incarcerated in a correctional facility. I was placed with children who had committed crimes, some times very serious ones. I was naive about crime and drugs, but I learned a lot. The JDA was such that they could imprison any minor up to 21 years old without ever charging them with a crime, convicting them and sentences.

It was a very bad time for youth who got caught up in the JD system. However, I was just a traumatized child, who had been abused her entire life.The detention center was meant to be a temporary placement as well and they could only hold you there for three months before they had to place you in a permanent institution. I was in the Detention center for five months? I didn’t care one place was as good as the next. At this time I was not on any prescribed medicine. I was an abused youth with untreated mental illness, who pretty much kept to herself and tried not to cause trouble. I was housed with very worldly youth who were iv drug user’s and prostitutes. They were very hardened and jaded, and did not think life had very much to offer them, it was really sad. They talked about suicide like it was a fairy tale, and would be happily ever after if their lives were ended. A lot of children in care committed suicide, it just rarely was talked about in the press, since the amount of suicides were so overwhelming.

“A tribute to Richard Cardinal, a Métis adolescent who committed suicide in 1984. He had been taken from his home at the age of four because of family problems, and spent the rest of his seventeen short years moving in and out of twenty-eight foster homes, group homes and shelters in Alberta.”

I’m so sorry Richard, I wish I could have saved you my friend. I wish I could have saved all of us. Tammy 2019

During my time in the detention centre and YDC institution, there were many youth that I befriended. It always render my heart, when I would hear from staff or former residents that came back, tell me that a friend had ended their life. I am talking about girls and boys, some as young as 12 ending their life, because the contemplation of their future was to hard and to bare. This was a shameful time in our history, it is my hopes we do not repeat it. That we learn from the mistakes and go forward with a new purpose. To save the children of today. One child ending their life, is one to many.

When I first went to lock up I was about 12 years old. I was 14 and a half when I left, lock up entirely. In total I was locked up for almost three years, and had seven more years to look forward to under the JD system, for committing no crime and not being a danger to myself or others. I never drank or did Drugs, unless with my mom which wasn’t often. Smoking cigarettes was not illegal for minors at that time, so even that was not a crime. My only crime was being my mothers daughter. During this time I did not see or talk to my siblings at all, I am sure mom would not allow it.

Who I was and who I was to become was drastically changed by a broken system. Tammy 2019

My time in Detention was pretty tame, I just ate , went to school in the facility, and stayed in my room. They did crafts once in a while, that I participated in. I never went outside, and the only out side contact I had was the staff that came to work every day, or new intakes that usually just came off the street literally. The average age of the teens that came was 13 to 15, I was the youngest Female JD in lock up at that time. The children that came in were typically iv users and prostitutes or in a gang, or sexual predators. Yes, there were teens in there that were sexual predators. They were teaching me things I never knew about, my world of abuse with my mom was so small as she hid us from the outside world to hide us from being taken away. Even though, I was locked up my world was expanding, and what I was hearing was that the world was not a safe place for children like me, and I was doomed to die a horrible, painful death. Unbeknownst to me things were going to go from bad to worse.”

The youngest JD in lock up was a ten year old boy, who said he accidentally shot his sister with his dads rifle. It was heartbreaking to hear him share his pain and grief. Some of the older boys from his unit said that the courts were pushing hard to try him as an adult. They said that if they succeeded he would be put into an adult population, prison system. Under the now defunct JD system they very easily could do this. We did not have any rights under this atrocious system.

Keep Youth Out of Adult Courts, Jails, and Prisons

Currently an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States. During the 1990s—the era when many of our most punitive criminal justice policies were developed—49 states altered their laws to increase the number of minors being tried as adults. On any given day, 10,000 youth are detained or incarcerated in adult jails and prisons. Studies show that youth held in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. An excerpt from: National Juvenile Justice Network. If this is still happening today, just think for a moment how easy it was under the JD system to incarcerate this ten year old boy and put him in an adult prison.

That man that I stayed with, in the temporary foster home, on the outside worked at a facility that was joined to the Detention center, a place called Youth assessment center, or “YAC” for short. A place for troubled youth were they go through treatment and counselling, nothing like detention or the place I was headed for. I seen him once through an opening we’re, we collected our food trays. He would not even look at me, I think it was a foreshadowing of what was going to happen to me. He knew me and he knew I did not belong in lock up, but he and his wife would not keep me so this lock up was to become my new place of surviving. There were no more options for me as far as the government was concerned. I was a ward of the government, and there was no going back.

Down the White Rabbit Hole” Part 2, a continuation of what it was like under the now defunct Juvenile Delinquent system.

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