Six Young Artists Speak Up About Kinship Care!

  • Sun May 14th, 2017 7:04am
  • Life

Taryn is in third grade and she lives with her grandmother Karen Thomas. She thought about writing a letter before but said, “This time I was ready to write it so I did.” Thomas said it had been about two months since Taryn had entered her letter and they had sort of forgotten about it and were really surprised when they found out she had won. Photo Christi Baron

Families from across Washington will gather at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 23, in the Governor’s Mansion located near the State Capitol Building to honor six children who submitted winning essays for the 14th annual Voices of Children contest. Each of these young children and youths, ages 5-19 years old, created inspirational pieces of written and/or visual art about their experiences being raised by a relative caregiver. Each child submitting a winning entry will be awarded with a signed certificate, a $100 check donated by Twin Star Credit Union and an overnight stay at the Great Wolf Lodge for their family.

Most children find safety and comfort in the arms and care of their family, including grandparents and other relatives. For more than 2 million children in the USA, living with a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other family member has become a permanent or long-term arrangement. When parents are unable or unwilling to care for their children, placing them with a relative caregiver can have some advantages. Kinship care reduces the trauma children experience when placed with strangers. It enhances children’s sense of identity and self-esteem, continues connections children have to their siblings and other relatives, and strengthens the family’s ability to give children the support they need. Kinship care often comes as a surprise to both the child and the relative caregiver.

This year 52 entries were received. Some are funny, some serious or even sad, but all are sincere and offer testimony to the value, sense of family, and love each young artist experienced in living with a relative caregiver. The winning entries are:

Joseph, age 6 – Olympia

Casey, age 7 – Roy

Taryn, age 8 – Forks

Thomas, age 10 – Port Townsend

Summer, age 13 – Naches

Brittany, age 15 – Cashmere

Taryn’s letter:

I am Taryn. I have been raised by my grandma since I was 3 years old. I love her so much. She does so much for me — I don’t know where I would be without my grandma. She is the love of my life. I never want to lose her. I have been through tough times — when I am feeling down, she cheers me up. Grandma has made sure I am busy like cheerleading, basketball, baseball, gymnastics. We’re also involved with church. I am now taking violin lessons. We go on vacations together. My grandma comes to school and has breakfast with me. When I have bad dreams, my grandma is always there to comfort me.

Taryn, age 8 – Forks, WA

What does it mean to a child who can’t live with their parents to know he or she is safe, loved and has a place to belong? Some answers to this question are offered in the winning entries submitted to the Kinship Voices of Children Contest. The contest originally was initiated by the Statewide Kinship Oversight Coalition, and is coordinated by Family Education and Support Services in collaboration with Aging and Long Term Support Administration/DSHS, Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging, and Kinship Navigators and advocates across Washington State.

The event is sponsored by TwinStar Credit Union in collaboration with the Great Wolf Lodge. Judges included Bill Moss, David Stillman, Terry Jefferies, Amanda Stevens, Carrie Petit, Lori Mahar, Mike Fenton, Jennifer Strus, Teri Agulara Flemming, Shelley Arneson, Karen Fraser, Bonnie Jacques, Melisssa Goldman, Olvia Schu and Trista Mason.