Being a kid in foster care always comes with baggage. And it is almost always ugly.
Children who land in the system – and there are thousands just in Hillsborough County -- have been taken from their homes due to abuse or neglect or abandonment.
A Kid’s Place, a group home in Brandon funded with private donations through Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay, offers a respite from the ugliness for siblings awaiting more permanent placement. It was designed to provide comfort and safety and when possible, happiness.
The charity recently joined forces with the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in downtown Tampa to get the foster kids from A Kid’s Place out and about, photographing things on the property off Lithia-Pinecrest Road.
The youngsters took dozens of photographs of themselves holding hands, playing sports, playing on the playground and just enjoying their surroundings.
Kids Charity learned about the museum’s outreach program for at-risk and under privileged kids and thought it was a great idea, said Paula Perry, the charity’s executive director.
“It was a great opportunity, a fabulous enrichment opportunity” for the kids,” Perry said. “We wanted to do something … that left them with a positive experience.”
About a dozen youngsters ages 7 to 17 participated in the project.
They were told to photograph things that make them happy and the youngsters photographed their surroundings, each other and whatever else grabbed their attention, Perry said.
“It was very inspiring to see what they wanted to take photos of,” she said. “We didn’t want to stifle their creativity. They went through the administration building, photographed candy wrappers, trees and things that really inspired them.”
“The kids had a lot of fun learning how to use the cameras,” said Virginia Johnson, executive director of A Kid’s Place. “To see their own pictures, they were kind of amazed at what they were able to do. The children like attention from adults and they really enjoy a project that allows them to do something personal and learn something at the same time.”
“They came back after their photo safari and downloaded their images on to a computer and wrote about them,” Perry said.
The charity took the project a step further and used it as a fundraiser for A Kid’s Place, highlighting the pictures during a cocktail reception at the photography museum last week.
“The idea of having a reception, making it public, was to raise awareness of Kids Charity and show how fabulous these kids are,” Perry said. Some 20 photographs were included in the display.
A Kid’s Place houses sibling groups of children from birth to 17 years old. It has five large homes on the property with 60 beds and live-in house parents that care for the children.
The group home was designed to offer a safe, stable and loving environment for children taken from their homes. Its primary focus is to keep sibling groups together, something that was not otherwise available in Hillsborough County. Brothers and sisters stay at A Kid’s Place until a more permanent placement can be found to keep them together.
To date, A Kid’s Place has served as a temporary home for more than 700 children. To learn more, visit www.akidsplacetb.org.
By Yvette Hammett | Tribune Staff
Published: April 9, 2013