From Marie, a Free Hug for you and me!

By Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud
June 30, 2015

My name is Marie Christian, and I am the program director of Voices: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network. The Network exists to engage, equip, and empower youth who are currently in care, or who have been in care at some point in their lives. We nurture healthy relationships, and encourage youth to build their own family of choice, especially if their biological family is unable to provide them with the care and support they need to grow and develop to their best potential.

In 2010, the Voices Leadership Team was inspired to take the Free Hug Day idea and use it to raise awareness of the need for positive touch in the lives of youth in care and custody. Many young people who are living in group homes, shelters, and youth detention centres are deprived of positive, consensual touch. Agencies have their own policies about hugs between staff and the kids they are caring for. As young people who’ve been through the system, they thought it was important for everyone to understand that those policies are just not healthy. Kids and youth need as many hugs as they can get!

And so, Voices Free Hug Day was born. They painted signs and t-shirts and hung out between Johnson Terminal and The Forks Market. As curious people passed, they were offered hugs, high fives, and handshakes, and if they lingered long enough, the young people told them more about the issue, and gave them a copy of the brochure they had made.

It’s a simple act, to give a hug, or a high five, or a hand shake, but that positive touch makes a big difference in the life of a young person who perhaps has been robbed of their sense agency over their body. Not every person who has encountered our group over the last five years has the capacity or inclination to become a foster family, but perhaps they will become a coach, or be more sensitive to ‘that kid’ when they’re teaching, or become a mentor or volunteer with the many youth serving agencies in our city. We all have a role to play in raising healthy kids and teens. It takes a village, after all.

For more information about Voices: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network, please visit our website at You can check us out on Facebook, and on Twitter, or tune in to our radio show, System Kidz, on CKUW 95.9fm Tuesday evenings September to May.

We are thrilled Marie took the time to write about VOICES, in light of how often youth in care’s needs are in the media lately, her team at VOICES’ work is not only imperative but deserves our support and gratitude. It takes a community to raise a child, lets be that community!

Thank You!

Thank You!

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