Why we don't keep our daughters artwork

Jayda was in Foster Care 1669 days. Makenna was in Foster Care 1519 days.

Jayda was in Foster Care 1669 days. Makenna was in Foster Care 1519 days.

 

Erica Benisch adopted her daughters Jayda and Makenna from foster care in 2015. She shares why adopting from foster care is important and how she is using her daughter’s artwork to raise awareness for kids currently in Oregon’s foster care system.

After Jayda and Makenna came to live with us, I came across a box of my childhood papers. This box had been moved and stored at least four times in my adult life.  However, I never really looked at the contents, I had just dragged the box around my entire adult life. When I finally looked at the box in the fall of 2014, I realized it was papers and art without dates and without notes or reasons for keeping it. I wanted to make sure Jayda and Makenna knew why I kept their childhood art and I didn’t just want to throw it away without honoring their effort.

Giving back and volunteering has always been a part of my life and I wanted that for Jayda and Makenna too. I wanted them to be part of something bigger. That’s when I realized I had an answer for their art - I want to have an art show to honor their work and fundraise to give back. 

Jayda is tenacious and so curious.  She is into everything and wants to know how it works. In the two years she has made great strides in her development and trust of people. She does all of the right things when we are not around (at school, at camp, at friends’ houses, etc.).  Makenna, is a very intuitive girls who remembers everything.  She says the funniest things with great timing.  In January we were on vacation in Costa Rica, Mario and I decided to go out to dinner alone.  When we announced we were going to dinner without them Makenna asked why. When we explained it had been a long time since just the two of us had gone to dinner together.  Without missing a beat, Makenna replies, “you had time to yourselves before we moved in.

The month before the event, we began to pull out their art and determine which ones will be part of the show. The girls title their art and we display them on the walls around the main floor and up the stairwell. The girls each pick out their favorite piece they want to keep. I ask them why they like it and make sure to put a note on the back so they’ll have that memory. I also pick out my favorite and write on the back why I like it.

On the day of the show, the guests arrive and enjoy the artwork over hors d’oeuvre and cocktails.  I welcome everyone and introduce Christina Diss, Boys & Girls Aid Director of Development, and tell a little bit about the organization. Once people decide on their artwork, they make a donation and place a sold sign on their art work. Each person takes home one or two pieces from each of the girls. This year, one of our donors said she had the artwork framed and it’s hanging on her wall at home.

The 1st annual art show raised over $1,200. Jayda and Makenna presented their “big” check to Boys and Girls Aid on their adoption day. It was very special.

This year we raised $1,625 and grew our awareness base, which was really important to me. More people need to have an awareness of children in foster care and the positive impact of having a permanent lifelong connection.  My goal is to make this an annual tradition in our home, but my vision is to spread this across Oregon community’s one adoptive house at a time. 

I was really thrilled to have such a great turn out and to see all of the love and support from my family and friends. I was proud to tell our story and the story of Boys & Girls Aid, 131 years of serving Oregon that says a lot.

All children need support and tools for their toolbox which they receive from birth from their biological family.  Unfortunately, children from foster care typically haven’t learned many life skills to help them be successful and most don’t even have a toolbox, more than likely the survival tools they have learned makes it difficult to assimilate into a foster family, exasperating the situation for the child in care.  All children deserve a chance and support from individual donors helps make this possible.  I want to make sure everyone I know learns a little bit more about children in foster care.

 
Ryan Imondi