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Unheard Voices: Art from the Heart of Youth in Foster Care in West Virginia

Unheard Voices: Art from the Heart of Youth in Foster Care in West Virginia

An exhibit of paintings by WV youth in foster care Curated by Natalie R. Wonsettler, WVU Biology Class of 2024
Advisors: Mrs. Pamela Woodman-Kaehler, MBA, MSW, LGSW and Dr. Andrea Labus, MD
Health Sciences Library, May - August 2024

Six paintings from exhibit

West Virginia is home to one of the highest concentrations of children in foster care in the nation. Children in foster care are a population that is oftentimes overlooked and underserved in society. Within the complexities of the child welfare system, a child's interests and narrative are often spoken, written, and documented by representative advocates. These individuals will speak on behalf, and in the best interest, of these children. As a result, these children’s personal narratives and sense of personhood are told from the text of a case file or spoken testimonial of an advocate—not from the children themselves. While advocates are definitely necessary within the foster system, this process may still leave a child to feel as though their stories, hopes, and experiences are being told by someone else, and might be misunderstood.

The aim of this exhibit will be to showcase art created by children currently in foster care who are residing in shelters and group homes across the state of West Virginia. Blank canvases and art supplies will be distributed to these children in Spring 2024 with instructions for them to create artwork responding to the prompt, “Here is what I want you to know about me…” encouraging them to elicit and reflect on their experiences, thoughts, and emotions authentically.

Additionally, the mission of this project is to amplify voices of foster youth in West Virginia to provide them with an opportunity to tell their own stories without intervention, and to allow them the authority to express who they are. It will serve as a collective and reflective piece of the true heart and soul of the expressions of these children.

This project is made possible by partnership with Stepping Stone, Inc., Davis Stuart, Inc., the Monongalia County Youth Services Center, and Pressley Ridge. Thank you so much for your participation and collaboration.