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Art Exhibit at ODU Higher Education Center Depicts Life in Foster Care from Youths' Perspective

In 2008, nearly 8,000 Virginia children were in foster care. More than half of those youth are 11 years or older, and many live in group homes and other facilities, with no connection to a permanent family.

The "Voices for Change" project invited youth between the ages of 12 and 21 who are in foster care to express and depict their experiences in Virginia's foster care system through art and writing. The best submissions now comprise a touring exhibit.

"Voices for Change" will be on display at Old Dominion University's Virginia Beach Higher Education Center (VBHEC) June 5-29. The Center is open from 8 a.m-10 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC), Voices for Virginia's Children, Art 180 and FACES of Virginia Families. The sponsors will host a reception at the higher education center from 4:30-6 p.m. June 12.

"The exhibit actually grew out of an art, writing and photography contest we co-sponsored for older foster youth in 2008," said Christie Marra, staff attorney with the VPLC, and one of the creators of "Voices for Change."

"The contest invited the youth to share their thoughts and feelings about their experiences in Virginia's foster care system.

"Older youth in the foster care system are less likely to get adopted than young children in foster care. They face the very real possibility of leaving foster care at 18, 19 or 20 without a permanent connection to any family."

Marra said despite the scope of these challenges, the artwork submitted rarely addressed them.

"Instead, they focused on more immediate challenges, including their daily struggle to cope with the trauma they had experienced."

Marra said reflecting on this trauma through works of writing or art may well have been therapeutic.

"Their pieces certainly provided glimpses into the horrors these youth had lived through, from coping with alcoholic mothers and incarcerated fathers, to witnessing gang violence, to feeling as if they were trapped in their present foster care situation."

The artwork, photography and writing vary in style, personality and voice, but all of the pieces represent the triumphs and struggles of children in foster care.

The exhibit will include winning submissions from foster care youth from communities around the state, selected by a panel of judges that includes authors, artists and professors from across Virginia.

For more information about the exhibit, call Linda Lopez Caulkins of the VBHEC at 757-368-4108; for directions, visit the center's Web site, www.odu.edu/ao/vbhec.

This article was posted on: May 29, 2009

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.