Young people with experience in care will take part in unique exhibition this February, exploring love, hope and inspiration
Shaw Trust warns about the national shortage of care and support workers, as the number of children in care reaches all-time high
The charity hopes to attract more care and support workers by highlighting the important role they play in new art exhibition marking its 40th anniversary
Care-experienced children and young people will pay tribute to the foster carers, support workers, teachers and relatives who have inspired them, in a moving art exhibition and book published by Shaw Trust.
Shaw Trust runs several programmes and organisations which support young people. This includes over 30 children’s homes across the country, and programmes which support vulnerable and disadvantaged young people back into education, employment or training.
The exhibition, Inspired by Hope, to be held at the Foundling Museum in February and online at https://www.shawtrust.org.uk/inspired-by-hope , marks its 40th anniversary and shines a light on the important role of the nation’s carers, while also empowering care-experienced children and young people - an often-marginalised group - to express themselves through art.
Using art to reflect on the people and experiences that have changed their lives, young people aged five and upwards have used drawing, painting, collage and photography to explore the theme of ‘My Inspiration – who or what inspires me?’
exploring their uplifting stories of love and hope. From life-changing foster carers to superheroes and even pets, the exhibition is a window into powerful and touching personal experiences.
It follows recent data released by the Department for Education, which reveals the number of children in care is the highest on record*. The national shortage of fostering and residential placements is having a detrimental impact because children are often placed in settings that are not equipped to support their needs. In many cases, children are placed in unregistered homes where the care they receive is not subject to formal inspection or regulation. Shaw Trust is determined to tackle this and alongside homes for children Shaw Trust have a fostering agency called Fostering2Inspire with 21 foster families looking after 28 children. The number of children’s homes Shaw Trust operates has increased by over 200% from 12 in 2016 to 34 today, looking after 114 children. They estimate that the need for care will continue to rise and hope to attract more support and care workers across the country.
Chris Luck, Shaw Trust CEO, said: “As a charity, we believe that encouraging creative expression, in all its forms, can be instrumental in aiding personal recovery and in expressing and exploring identity. For many of our children in care, such expression can be difficult, but art is a powerful avenue for building confidence, and sharing it is an act of trust and a sign of confidence. At a time when the number of children in care is increasing, we are faced with a national shortage of key workers to support them. I hope this exhibition will give care-experienced children an opportunity to display their creativity and talent, but also encourages more people to consider a career in this incredibly important and rewarding role. My congratulations to all our wonderful art contributors in creating something so special and being willing to share it, and my thanks to all who have supported them through this exhibition. I hope this will the first of many.”
Some of the featured artists, who experienced care at a young age, now work supporting children and young people as part of the Shaw Trust team. Lorretta Fontaine, Boost Plus Team Leader, works as a mentor to 15-19 year-olds at risk of disengaging, was taken into local authority care as a baby and was officially adopted the day before her fourth birthday.
She said: “My life could have been very different, but thanks to my beautiful angel who I call Mum and the man who is my hero who I call Dad, my life turned out to be everything and more. They gave me the most beautiful family that I might never have known. That will always be the greatest gift I ever had.” Her submitted artwork, a striking photograph of London’s Millennium Bridge, gives a powerful message: Don’t let a bridge be a barrier to your success. You just need to take the first step to find hope at the end.
Julie Williams, whose vibrant painting ‘Inspired by Hope’ features in the exhibition, was homeless at the age of 15 and now works as a Supported Lodging Carer, helping young women battling homelessness. She said: “Although the practicalities of teaching life skills are important, I feel that helping re-ignite hope, in these young people is my main job. These young people normally come to us in despair – life has dealt them a very tough deal, when they needed most to be cherished, understood, and cared for. I cannot change their past, only, for a short period of time – demonstrate and help them on their journey to a brighter future.”
Bringing together these unique artworks with the stories and experiences behind them will reveal the everyday courage and creativity of young people and their carers, from across the UK, shining a spotlight on their hopes for a brighter future. The exhibition’s 68 artworks will be on display at the Foundling Museum in February and online at https://www.shawtrust.org.uk/inspired-by-hope
NB The term 'care-experienced' refers to anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked-after background at any stage in their life, no matter how short, including adopted children who were previously looked-after and kinship care.