Museum of Lost Childhoods—and Resilience

A provocative encounter, the Museum of Lost Childhoods gives child welfare professionals a deeper understanding of the foster youth experience – from grief and trauma, to resiliency and success. Our traveling museum was developed by youth and is comprised of donated artifacts, art, and digital media, along with a display card about each item. The contents are organized in contiguous displays, guiding the child welfare professional on a journey from “Lost Childhoods” to “Foster Youth Empowerment.” You may be surprised by the artifacts that youth have chosen to save and share, which speaks volumes to the lasting impact of foster care.

Like all other Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project programs, the Museum is built on the principles of positive youth development. By experiencing the Museum, you will see how youth can heal and grow with supportive relationships, collaborative decision-making, respect, maturity, and age.


History

The Museums of Lost Childhoods & Foster Youth Empowerment were created in the process of developing curriculum for our full-day Child Welfare Supervisor training. The museums were displayed throughout the day as an integral component of the training curriculum. In their original training context, the museums were presented one at a time. The Museum of Lost Childhoods was displayed for the first half of the day, and the Museum of Foster Youth Empowerment for the second half of the day. This proved to be a logistical challenge, so we began presenting both museums simultaneously for the duration of the training, sequencing them intentionally so the Museum of Lost Childhoods would be viewed before the Museum of Foster Youth Empowerment. This form of presentation has proved to be very powerful, and we are currently assessing the museums as a possible stand-alone traveling exhibit.


Summary

The Museums of Lost Childhoods and Foster Youth Empowerment are a collection of artifacts of foster youth culture. Many of these artifacts are actual items from former foster youth’s lives, contributed to the museum in hopes of making an impact on the Child Welfare System. The items are showcased on risers or in cases, displayed on black tablecloths. Each artifact is accompanied by a description of the item in the context of foster care, as well as the experience of the person who contributed it. The artifacts in the Museum of Lost Childhoods include such items as empty bottles of medical prescriptions, a sanitary napkin made of toilet paper stapled together, and a hospital gown a youth was required to wear while living in a psychiatric facility. The Museum of Foster Youth Empowerment includes such items as a youth’s journal, pictures of a youth’s current family, and a display of college graduation items.

Sample slideshow of the museum [PDF]

For information about bringing the Museum of Lost Childhoods to your organization, training program, or event, please email us.