Foster kids tell their stories at Trumbull Children Services art show

The event was a vibrant way to illustrate foster care in the Trumbull County -- allowing children to own their stories

Trumbull County Children Services hosted a public debut of its "Heart Show" Friday night at the Shortcut Gallery in Warren. The event was a vibrant way to illustrate foster care in the Trumbull County -- allowing children to own their stories and express themselves through the arts.


WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Trumbull County Children Services hosted a public debut of its “Heart Show” Friday night at the Shortcut Gallery in Warren. The event was a vibrant way to illustrate foster care in Trumbull County — allowing children to own their stories and express themselves through the arts.

For many kids who are in the foster care system, it’s something they have a hard time doing. And there are many kids, as TCCS has seen a 40 percent rise of children in its care since the opiate crisis first took hold of the Valley in 2014.

But by teaming up with the Trumbull County Art Gallery, Trumbull Children Services is looking to change the kids’ self esteem.

“We thought it would be a great idea to do an exhibition,” said Bill Millane, gallery director. “One that both talked about foster care — had an artist photograph some of the foster children, have art that foster care children were doing to really kind of give a broader and bigger picture of what it means to foster a child — and also how foster children can engage and be creative and have the opportunity to tell their own story.”

Over the past few months, WYTV has received an exclusive look behind the scenes as these kids made their works of art and got their portraits taken. The gallery will stay up until the end of May.

“It just works in every way for the child,” said Tim Schaffner, executive director TCCS. “And for the adults involved with that child, on another level it’s so masterful in how it shares their pain with people that maybe don’t understand addiction or growing up in an addiction household. That’s why their photos are so compelling.”

“And of course, they might not be able to do that in a water color painting,” said Claire Gysegem, community liaison at TCCS. “But it plants a seed where they look at what they’ve created — especially when it’s a self portrait — and they’re interpreting themselves. I think it helps them look at the world and look at themselves a little bit differently, and hopefully in a more positive light.”

Some may have been shy at first, but through light and color, the kids found their voice and showed their true selves — especially in front of the camera.

“I mean, I like it when they look pretty and smile,” said Katie Gray, Grayscale Photos owner. “But really when you let them kinda take the reigns of the shoot, you get the best shots.”

It was hard not to be overcome with emotion as parents saw their child’s mater pieces hanging on the walls of the Shortcut Gallery for the first time.

In these works of art lies a deeper meaning. It gives you a better sense of the foster care system, as well as the love and compassion it takes to give kids a home when their’s has fallen apart.

“It’s an honor to take care of these children,” said foster parent Terry Paronish. “It’s an honor to have one of these kids put their arm around you and say they love you and for you to love them back. It’s not hard to love them.”

Coming up Monday night at 11 p.m., you’ll hear more from Paronish, who has been a foster parent for the last 10 years and has recently adopted three of the kids who she was fostering. WYTV will also dive deeper into the Opiod crisis and how it’s affecting the foster care program — especially in Trumbull County.