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Fostering change: a new smile, a new beginning for abuse victim

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WATCH ABOVE: Last fall, Global News brought you the emotional story of a young man who was abused repeatedly in foster care. Now, there's a whole new chapter for the victim, and a new reason to smile. Nancy Hixt has part 5 of her series, Fostering Change – Jan 10, 2018

For much of his life, Michael Matthews had little to smile about.

He suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the Alberta foster system from ages of three to 18.

Watch part 1 of Fostering Change below: Nancy Hixt reports on one man’s story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system

Click to play video 'Fostering Change Part 1: One man’s horrific story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system' Fostering Change Part 1: One man’s horrific story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system
Fostering Change Part 1: One man’s horrific story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system – Oct 30, 2017

In one foster home, Matthews said he was beaten and subjected to various forms of torture. In another, he was sexually abused by his foster father — who was later convicted of abusing four teenage boys.

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“They always come into my mind, on and off. It’s mostly hatred. I can’t help it,” Matthews said. “I wish I could be forgiving but there’s just something I can’t forgive, at least not yet.”

Watch part 2 of Fostering Change below: Recognizing the signs of child abuse

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Fostering Change: Recognizing the signs of child abuse – Oct 31, 2017

Matthews said one of the biggest physical reminders of his disturbing childhood is what has happened to his teeth. Many have rotted and fallen out. His mouth has been filled with infection for years.

Every time Matthews looks in the mirror and sees his teeth, he’s taken back to the abuse.

“She [foster mother] would make me hold laundry soap in my mouth and then stand in the corner… make me bite off bars of soap and just hold them in my mouth,” he explained.
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Watch part 3 of Fostering Change below: Shifting the focus from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What happened to you?’

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Fostering Change: Shifting the focus from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What happened to you?’ – Nov 1, 2017

So when a local dentist saw his story on Global News and offered to restore health to his mouth and fix his teeth — free of charge — Matthews was elated.

“I know there’s a big strong mental and emotional connection for Michael between his mouth and his past, so it was nice to be able to change that and put those teeth in the past,” Dr. Thayne Blunston said.

Watch part 4 of Fostering Change below: Generous act of kindness gives victim of abuse a new reason to smile  

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Fostering Change: Generous act of kindness gives victim of abuse new reason to smile – Nov 8, 2017

But nothing could prepare Matthews for the final reveal.

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He got tears in his eyes as he held up a mirror and saw his new teeth for the first time.

“I just can’t help but smile,” he said.

Matthews said it feels like a whole new beginning, one that’s long overdue.

Click here for Fostering Change Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Click here for Part 3

Click here for Part 4