See Me: Pieces of Life from Youth In Care

The exhibit, "See Me," first showcased at 2023 Roaring for Justice, features artwork, interviews and artifacts representing the lived experiences of Georgia’s youth navigating the foster care system.

Through our partners, we connected with youth who shared their stories and experiences of Georgia’s foster care system.

Maps and timelines chronicle the moves child in foster care may endure in a year – homes, schools, changes in case workers – and the negative consequences that may follow.

The lines on this map represent the 13-home placement moves of a single Georgia youth in foster care over 11 months.

This timeline shows 12 months of foster care for one of Georgia Appleseed’s clients – 5 schools, 5 caseworkers, and 7 moves. With each move, she must start over with new teachers, new mental and physical health providers, and new foster caregivers. Her timeline is representative of the turmoil that many of our clients’ experience.

“See Me” featured a series of paintings commissioned by Georgia Appleseed from some of Georgia’s youth in foster care. What resulted are incredibly moving art pieces that told the real stories of four teenagers. The artists describe their artwork with great emotion and insight. 

“Healing My Heart,” Anonymous
You know, like, my heart, you know when I first got here…it was broken. Like I was…I didn’t know what to do. Foster care it kinda just gave me a ladder. And you know, just helped me. So, my painting is basically just like how my heart was broken, but I’m slowly fixing it with the bandages and everything. And, but, my heart – I didn’t want it to be like a regular heart, because it gotta be different. ‘Cause I’m different. I needed my heart to be yellow, because yellow is my favorite color. It’s very bright. Most people don’t like it, but I think it’s amazing. It’s bright like the sun, and that’s how I see myself.

“Drowning,” Anonymous
It’s a dark night and the moon is shining very brightly over everything, but the clouds are dark, and they’re blocking out the light. And there’s a reflection on the water where the moon is, and it’s reflecting the goodness, but it’s also reflecting the darkness that comes with it. That’s me. Right there. I’m basically drowning. And this lady right here – she’s looking at me, and she’s watching me suffer, and she’s not doing a thing. But this man right here, he saw me and cast out a little life saver boat, but the boat’s way over here, and I’m way over here. So, it’s not really doing much to help me, but I guess it shows that he tried. Yeah, I think most definitely this could be a lot of kids’ lives.

“Growing,” Kira Greer
I first came into foster care with a lot of dark emotions. It was a lot going on for anybody. It can be really rough. It can be really hard, no matter what their story. It’s stressful. And I thought it was just a really dark place, and I wasn’t going to come out of this dark place until I’m 18. And then as I’m going through like the system for finding all these new people that have similar stories as me . . . there is light and color in it. And also, when I came into care, I was very insecure about my body. And I thought I was struggling to find myself. And it wasn’t me trying to find myself, it was me trying to grow. And that’s why parts of it are resembling vines or flowers. It shows that I’m still growing as a person. And then all the color shows all the variety of people, all of the creative people that are out there that [aren’t] just bright, they are amazing. They just have hard stories and that they also need to realize they are still growing as well.

“The Jellyfish,” Anonymous 
The message I was trying to present is like a jellyfish – when somebody sees a jellyfish, they’re like “Oh…no. That’s scary” – like they don’t like jellyfish. But jellyfish are kinda cute. At the top they’re really squishy, and they’re all soft and stuff. So when you first go into foster care everybody is trying to baby you – they’re soft and squishy and stuff. But then other times, like down here you see – the sting part – it can sting you. It can be hard, like when you first go into it, like I said it was scary, and sometimes it can be encouraging, there’s lots of opportunities and stuff. But then other times you’re away from your family, and things like that. And most of the time – well, not most of the time – some of the time, you’re not in the best of situations. Like the people you’re with you don’t like maybe or things like that. I’m an awkward person. I don’t fit in with much of people. So, when I first came out here, I kinda just lingered and looked and looked at people, and they just kinda looked back at me. I mean, I guess people in the like foster care system can be more opening.

Children and youth in Georgia’s foster care system move often, sometimes hundreds of miles from family. Frequent moves spark behavior challenges at home and school as kids cope. A damaging cycle emerges. Behavior challenges result in school discipline, often suspension or expulsion. In turn, suspensions exacerbate behavior and create new instability. Working foster parents cannot leave their jobs to care for homebound kids—and DFCS must find a new home. With each new home and school, the cycle repeats.

Georgia Appleseed breaks that cycle. In the last year, Georgia Appleseed provided legal services to 200+ children in care, in 69 counties. Case managers refer students to our School Justice Initiative when schools threaten long-term school suspension. We work with schools to reduce suspensions (122 school days on average per student), and marshal education and behavioral supports to disrupt the cycle.

These youth represent the 10,600+ children in foster care in Georgia on any given day. Support them, and our work for them via our FAIR program (Fairness, Advocacy, & Individualized Representation).