Fostering Truth: Exposing Lies and Exploring Resilience

Fostering Truth: Exposing Lies and Exploring Strength

Today we began installing Lost Childhoods at Warehouse 416 in Oakland. I’ve been part of Foster Youth Museum from the beginning – from the first moment the idea was born – so I found myself surprised that seeing items we started collecting in 2007 were choking me up like it was the first time I’d laid eyes on them. Truth is, this is the first time the general public will lay eyes on Foster Youth Museum (FYM), and for that reason alone, it is a little like I’m seeing the items for the first time, and feeling the impact anew.

What is so compelling about FYM are the stories behind the artifacts and art. Each of us who works on FYM has one item that impacts us the most. For me, it is the toilet paper sanitary pad.

Toilet Paper Sanitary Pad
Toilet Paper Sanitary Pad

A young girl in foster care made sanitary pads out of toilet paper and staples when her foster family refused to buy her hygiene products. Thinking of that girl rolling toilet paper, thinking of the steel and pointy staples being near her private parts – how do the youth say? I can’t even.

We set up the first wall today (there are five walls in total) and I was allowed to suggest the toilet paper pad be placed in the front – one of the first things you’ll see when you enter the gallery. I am still shocked by the story. Still outraged. Still angry. And I am beyond proud that we are telling that story in our first public exhibit. That story was supposed to be hidden, a secret, as though it never happened. I wish that foster family that denied my sister-friend hygiene products could be made to see FYM. That they could see the utter obscene nature of their neglect. Then I’d want an apology.

Because that will never happen, I will instead take pride in my sister-friend’s survival and the fact that we are illuminating a secret that no one should hold. The girl who used staples and tissue to manage her monthly period is now a brilliant, funny, sweet, talented and successful young woman. She has overcome the intolerable neglect of these foster parents. And she lived to tell this story. And now we are telling it.

Speaking truth to power feels good. Come feel the power on Saturday, March 7th at Warehouse 416 (416 26th Street, Oakland, California). 5:30 PM; program at 6:15 PM.

For more information email FYM or call us at 415-442-5060 Ext. 25.

Jamie Lee Evans is co-director of Foster Youth Museum.

2 thoughts on “Fostering Truth: Exposing Lies and Exploring Resilience

  1. I used to work for state licensing inspecting group homes. The lack of decent food and snacks was appalling. The sanitation was poor. The worst part was the untrained staff members who said nasty remarks to the residents about their families,played with their minds and most egregiously sexually exploited them. There are kids in foster care for many reasons, the strangest being immigration detention. Caring for undocumented minors with no families was very lucrative. I had one group home operator who read that the minimum calories per day that she had to feed her residents was 750 calories and that was all she was giving teenage boys to eat, 750 calories worth of food a day, a starvation diet! I met all kinds of operators in the group home business, but I rarely found a group home where I thought I would have liked to live as a teenager. The worst were the county run facilities. This was long ago, 1980 to 1993. I hope things have improved since.

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  2. This is such an important aspect of our culture that I’m glad to see is finally being unearthed, preserved and interpreted – hopefully as experiences that encourage us to do better as a society in taking responsibility for the lives of current and former foster youth. As a former foster youth artist and metalsmith, I look forward to getting to that part of the country to see these exhibits in person.

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