Submitted by Family Education and Support Services

Families from across Washington will gather on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. in the Governor’s Mansion located near our State Capitol Building to honor six children who submitted winning essays for the 14th annual Kinship Voices of Children contest. Each of these young children and youth, ages 5 to 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.

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 was originally 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.

6-year-old Joseph said this about his winning entry (pictured) – “Family is like gears- they all connect together.” Photo courtesy: Family Education and Support Services

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, WA
  • Casey, age 7 – Roy, WA
  • Taryn, age 8 – Forks, WA
  • Thomas, age 10 – Port Townsend, WA
  • Summer, age 13 – Naches, WA
  • Brittany, age 15 – Cashmere, WA

In addition to the children being honored, we will also acknowledge Ms. Judy Lin. Our 2017 booklet compiling all entries into the Voices of Children contest has been dedicated to Judy in honor of her substantial contributions to Kinship Caregivers across our State.

For more information about this contest or to learn about Kinship Care Resources contact Lynn Urvina at 1-877-813-2828 or e-mail Lynn@FamilyESS.org.

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