“I am so grateful for my foster family; they don’t think I am, but I am.”
– Leo Narboni-Kruger
“I was born in Melfort, Saskatchewan. I moved around a lot when I was young; we went from Saskatchewan to Quebec, Osoyoos, Oliver, but we eventually settled in Penticton 11 years ago.”
“I wasn’t always in the best living situations. When I was in grade one we lived in a tent in the middle of an orchard. Both my parents were into drugs and alcohol. I remember when my mom and I were living out of a hotel, I would have to take care of her, and myself, I was only eight at the time.”
When did you stop living with your parents?
“When I was in grade three I met my foster brother. It started out with me spending a weekend or two at his place, but eventually I ended up living there full-time and his family took custody of me. Living with them helped me a lot. They put me through sports, and taught me about responsibility; I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.”
How was middle school for you?
“Middle school was rough. I started questioning why I was in this situation, and began to blame it on myself, like I could have done more to prevent this. I began to develop depression and anxiety around this time. The severity of the depression fluctuated, but in grade eight my brain shut off and I began to self-harm; I wasn’t thinking.”
Did your friends know about your situation?
“One time in class we were watching a movie related to drugs and abuse. It must have triggered something, because I had an anxiety attack in the middle of class; I think that’s when my friends got the idea.”
How are things for you now?
“I’m off my anxiety medication and am much happier.”
“However, I had a fight with my foster family not too long ago, things got so bad that I moved out; my relationship with them hasn’t gotten better. I had a meeting with my foster family and my mother offered to pay my rent so I would have a place to live. However, once I turn 19, those checks stop coming because of the way the foster system works. I don’t want to end up on the streets, so I have two jobs now to prepare myself for April when I turn 19.”
What’s one important lesson you have learned from all this?
“I’ve learned the importance of responsibility. Having worked in an orchard at eight years old, I’ve had to make decisions that other eight year old’s never have to make. Even now, I’m in high school trying to pull off good grades, while working two jobs to avoid ending up on the streets; it’s important to have a good work ethic.”
What makes you happiest right now?
“All the simple things I never had the opportunity to do as a kid. Having the freedom to simply walk downtown and wave at people makes me so happy. I’m trying to make myself a more positive person; I need to accept my depression and anxiety in order to move past it.”
I asked Leo if he had any closing words, he had this to say.
“I want to thank all of my support. Thank you to the staff at Maggie Secondary School for always being there for me, my great circle of friends, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre for being so good to me, and my foster family. Even though we’re not on good terms right now, I’m so grateful for what they’ve done for me.
Leo, at first glance, is just like any other teenager, and he is. It’s only once you look deeper that you see the extent of the hardship he went through, and is still going through. It’s extremely frustrating knowing that there is somebody as kind and genuine as Leo out there who is going to be at risk of living on the streets at 19. I think it’s past the time for the Government to stop wiping their hands clean, to stop leaving these kids to fend for themselves once they turn 19, and to put themselves in their shoes.