Written by Ken McIntyre
Carlene Flett lived in Lac du Bonnet until she was three-years-old, when her parents separated. Her Mom then moved to Winnipeg with Carlene and her three siblings.
Her parents faced some difficult times and Carlene was placed in the foster care system at the age of four. This was when she started a roller-coaster journey that ended up including 12 foster homes.
At 13, she took up boxing at the Pan Am Boxing Club. Carlene excelled at sports, playing volleyball and competing in the provincial championships in track and field. “I was on the grade 8 divisional team when I was only in grade 6,” she recalls with pride. “But things changed in high school, as life happens, as they say.”
When Carlene was 15, she finally settled in with a loving foster family who she now considers her family. “My foster Mom has been a huge support for me by helping to raise my daughter and also guiding me to make the right decisions.”
Carlene went to numerous schools due to many foster family moves, and finished high school despite being pregnant. “I was still trying to go for it in my life, so I went back to school two months after giving birth. I am still one credit short and determined to get my PreCalculus, so I go to night school two days a week.”
Carlene has stayed in touch with a social worker who was very supportive and helped her through some difficult times. “I don’t know how she did it; she was someone I trusted and she took advantage of the time I wanted to spend with her by taking me to workshops when I was just eight-years-old. She later helped me get my first real job, supervising a youth co-op.”
Carlene entered the Marymound Independent Options Program at 17 to help ease the transition to adulthood and independent living. “I can honestly say I transitioned out of care into my own life independently very well, by still learning, still living.”
Now 21, Carlene lives in her own apartment while working full-time in the Marymound Student Work Experience Education Program (SWEEP) since July 2018. Her supervisors have nothing but great things to say about her reliability, work ethic and positive attitude. She has worked the hotdog cart, assisted in the kitchen, helped housekeeping and the cultural program, while also doing yard work.
Carlene plans to save money to enroll in university and study neuroscience. “I want to learn more about the brain and study its behaviour and development, and also study mental illness to try and create more connections and better solutions that don’t have to resort to medication,” says Carlene. “Meds should be more of a support than something you should depend on.”
But for now, she is focused on creating a solid foundation. “I’m trying to make sure my baby’s life isn’t similar to mine by making sure she has stability. I can’t imagine my daughter having to go through everything that I had to at the same age. To this day I don’t know how I managed to get through to this point in my life.”
Carlene is in a good place and plans to stay there. “I know what it’s like to be in a bad situation, and I’d rather do things to help myself than make a situation worse. To me that’s just common sense.”