Free Arts serves more than 22,000 children each year who have experienced abuse, neglect, poverty, and homelessness.
Anecdotally, judges, social workers, teachers, parents and other reports that children who participate in Free Arts programs exhibit improved hope, resiliency and self-esteem, along with improved communication and coping skills.
Dr. Joseph P. Bush of Fielding Graduate Institute is currently conducting a study to measure the efficacy of Free Arts programs in improving hope, self-esteem and resiliency in children who participate in Free Arts programs. Data collection is underway and results are expected Spring 2017.
Me, my mom and my sister used to be homeless. Before that, we lived with my mom’s boyfriend. He’s also the dad of my sister. Life was really hard then. He was always mad, and sometimes he hit me and my mom. One day we left. We hid at a shelter and then we moved around a lot. We never had a place of our own. We slept at different shelter or friends’ houses or sometimes on the streets. Then we ended up at a shelter for just kids, without my mom. The social worker said my mom can’t take care of us right now. The worst part is that right now, I don’t see my sister. She’s in a different foster home than me.
Then I had to go to the court to tell the judge what happened with my mom. My mom wants us back, but the judge has to decide. I had to get up real early with my social worker to be there. I looked around for my sister at the court, but I didn’t see her. I was so mad. There was a table of people doing art. My social worker made me go see what they were doing. I didn’t want to, but I went anyway. They were tracing their hands and making animals and stuff out of them. I drew my hand and realized that my sister’s name had five letters, so I wrote a letter on each finger: EMILY. I drew lots of flowers too, because she loves flowers. I miss my sister so much, and can’t wait to give her the present. I have never been able to give her one before. I hope she knows that I think about her all the time, even though we’re far apart.
I’m Alyssa. I’m 12 and I live with my brother. He's my hero. Life with my mom was scary. She cried a lot and would forget to feed me. My principal told the police after I hadn't been at school for a few days. At first, I went to a shelter with lots of other kids. I was really scared. The social worker told me my mom was doing drugs and had tried to kill herself.
The first time I went to court, I was scared. There were so many people, and I didn't know what they were talking about, so I sat and didn't talk to anyone. I had to come back three months later. That time, I pretended to be brave, but it was hard.
Then I saw the table with people doing art. I remembered them from the first time, so I decided to go see what was going on. They were making flower bouquets with tissue paper. I decided to get real creative and make a bunch of flowers with different colors. Then my brother said it was our turn. I didn’t even notice that an hour had gone by. I can't explain it, but walking into the courtroom holding the flowers made me feel so much less scared than the last time.
When the judge said my name, I looked right at her instead of at the floor like before. She told me I was very brave, and I liked that. I felt brave. She told me my mom is in counseling and wants to be a family again. Maybe it will happen someday. Right now, I'm happy to be safe with my brother.