Press Release - May 5, 2014

Contact:  Andrea Wojcik
302-633-2501 or 985-1330 (c)

Foster Youth Unveil Mural for Kent County Family Court

Dover – In Kent County’s Family Court, Delaware youth who have experienced foster care unveiled a visual legacy they are leaving for those who come after them.  Twenty-five youth, most members of the Delaware Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), painted an inspirational mural during their spring break and donated it to the Court on Monday May 5th.  The mural was revealed during a public ceremony in Judge Mardi Pyott’s courtroom, where it has been hung.

Picture 2 - Mural donated to Kent County Family Court

“I’m so pleased to have this beautiful piece of art in my courtroom,” said Judge Pyott, who was also one of the chaperones during the weeklong mural painting project.  “These kids inspire me with their creativity and their honesty.  Not only are they leaving a piece of themselves and their story with me, but I can also use it as a communication and teaching tool for the youth who come after them.”

The mural tells a story about the journey from where the youths are now in their lives, to where they would like to be and what their dreams and goals are.  Along the way, it depicts the choices they will have to make to achieve the vision for their future and some of the struggles they may face. 

The youth painted the mural under the guidance of Lead Your Way Solutions artist, John Donato.  Donato said that he started by initiating conversations about what the mural means to them and what conversation they wanted to start and leave behind for all who would see it.  Once they had that they were ready to start designing and adding characters and commentary in the mural. Donato says it was important to establish trust with the young people at the start of the week and allow them to be comfortable in practicing their creative process.

Mural donated to Kent County Family Court

“I wanted it to be an experience like no other for them – one that was going to raise their confidence in themselves and in each other.  That’s where the art comes in.  It serves as a catalyst to empower them to create something a lot of people wouldn’t have the courage to do.” Donato stresses that though he provided a starting point, technical assistance and some guidance, that the youth are really the owners of this message. 

“It was an amazing week for all us; it changed us,” said Gerard McDonald, President of the Youth Advisory Council.  “We came to this project with different levels of skill.  It didn’t matter if you had never painted before in your life.  By the end, we all felt that we had a chance to tell our story our way, and we felt like we can do anything.”

Funding for the mural project was provided by the Delaware Bar Foundation.  This is the second partnership between Family Court, YAC and Lead Your Way Solutions.  A similar mural was unveiled in 2012 in Sussex County.  “I am a huge champion of this project and the arts in general,” said Family Court Chief Judge Chandlee Johnson Kuhn.  The children who come through the court system sometimes feel as if they have no voice.  This is a way to show them that they most definitely do.”  Planning for a mural for the New Castle County Family Court is underway.

YAC is supported by the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF).  Cabinet Secretary Jennifer Ranji also chaperoned during the painting project and contributed to the mural.  “It was so gratifying for me to be a small part of this project.  I could see the passion, the camaraderie, the teamwork and the heart that these young people put into the project. It is something I’ll never forget.”

The Children’s Department provides services to children who have been abused, neglected, are dependent, have mental health or substance problems, have been adjudicated delinquent by the Courts, as well as prevention services targeted toward all youth. For more information, please visit www.kids.delaware.gov .