‘Maybe I’m not as broken as I’ve sometimes felt’ are the heartfelt words of 18-year-old Johnny reflecting on his experiences of foster care. He added: ‘It’s hard to know if my traits are those of a child in foster care or just a child.’
Johnny’s story is one of 13 told by looked after young people and their foster carers in a book published by leading fostering charity The Fostering Network at the launch of their ‘Not so Broken’ exhibition in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.
The exhibition showcases artistic work produced in a wide range of media by over 100 children and young people in foster care across Northern Ireland. Members of the public can view the exhibition, which includes over 50 pieces of art work, the ‘Not so Broken’ book of personal stories and an animated short film, until Friday 14 October.
Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are delighted to be hosting this moving, inspirational and hopeful exhibition. The artwork here today is put into context by the book we are publishing today which gives people an insight into the real lives of children in care in Northern Ireland today. We are grateful for the one-off funding from The Department for Communities, under their Together Building United Communities, programme which has enabled us to produce this amazing showcase of inspiring work by looked after children.’
Officially opening the exhibition, Communities Minister Paul Givan said: ‘I am delighted to launch the “Not so Broken” creative showcase today highlighting the impressive work by looked after children and young people in foster care in our society.
‘Much of the tireless work undertaken by The Fostering Network is unseen but it plays a vital role in improving the lives of young people throughout Northern Ireland. This exhibition is very moving and it has been a huge privilege for me to be given the opportunity to officially open the event and to hear firsthand the compelling stories from the young people who have made personal contributions. At the very heart of all of these projects is recognising the role children in foster care can, and do play in building a united community.’
The exhibition is open Tuesday 11 October (6pm until 9pm) and Wednesday 12 October until Friday 14 October (9.30am to 9pm) at the Cresent Arts Centre in Belfast.