A Visit to The Broad Offers an Opportunity for Foster Youth to Connect and Grow

July 12, 2019
Ryan Imondi

On Wednesday, the Individualized Transition Skills Program (ITSP) at Children’s Institute came together for a special trip to The Broad in downtown Los Angeles. The visit to the famed contemporary art museum served as a chance for foster youth in the program to see the incredible art collection for the first time while building important bonds with peers with similar experiences in the foster care system.

The group of 30 youth, who ranged from 16-21 years old, were excited to take advantage of the trip and see a portion of the more than 2,000 pieces of artwork The Broad has on display between their private collection and secure vault. Moments after entering, the group appreciated some of the more famous pieces like a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting or the giant inflatable dog by Jeff Koons. The group was especially engaged touring the special exhibit Souls of Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Cynthia, an 19-year-old in ITSP, moved through the museum with peers Alice and Alexis and their Transitional Development Specialist Alejandra Bueno. While standing near a giant canvas about female empowerment, Cynthia said she had never seen art like this before. More than the art, she said she appreciated getting the opportunity to hang out with other foster youth in a unique setting.

The main thing is that they get to be around their peers and hang out with youth like them.

Julio Cruz, ITSP Program Supervisor

“We are really spending quality time with each other,” she said.

ITSP works with youth who are preparing to age out of the foster care system. The program is designed to motivate and empower youth to achieve academic and professional success through one-on-one support from counselors that double as advocates and mentors. Youth in foster care are a population that struggles when transitioning to adulthood. Less than 13 percent attend college and more than 40 percent experience homelessness at some point in their lives. As a testament to the program’s success, ITSP celebrated 94 percent of their youth graduating high school and making plans to attend college in May.

Hajah, an 18-year-old youth in ITSP, with her counselor Justin Stewart.

Julio Cruz, ITSP Program Supervisor, said outings to places like The Broad are important to expose youth to things like art, but also serve as an opportunity for them to simply connect with other foster youth. He said that foster youth don’t always get to hang out with each other and it is nice to be with people who have gone through similar experiences. The unique circumstances of entering foster care can sometimes be hard to discuss with classmates who have not endured this type of trauma.

 “The main thing is that they get to be around their peers and hang out with youth like them,” he said.

Hajah, an 18-year-old in ITSP, spent most of her day navigating the museum with Justin Stewart, a Transitional Development Specialist at CII. She echoed Cynthia in appreciating the opportunity to meet other youth while getting to take part in a new experience.

I feel like this is one of our best outings, because it exposes them to something they don’t normally see while also letting them relax.

Justin Stewart, ITSP Transitional Development Specialist

“It’s different. I haven’t seen anything like this before and I really like it,” she said. “Being at The Broad has given me a chance to reach out to people I don’t normally get to interact with and that’s cool.”

Stewart said he was seeing a different side of the youth at the museum. During the year, he works with Hajah and other youth on a number of academic or professional skills. These sessions are important, but can be serious.

“I feel like this is one of our best outings, because it exposes them to something they don’t normally see while also letting them relax,” he said.

In August, the group will be attending a Los Angeles Sparks game together. They’re already looking forward to connecting and spending more time together.

Two youth in ITSP posed next to a piece in the Souls of a Nation exhibit.
Cynthia, a 19-year-old youth in ITSP, points to a painting with her peers Alice and Alexis and counselor Alejandra Bueno.
Three youth in ITSP pose underneath a giant table and chairs inside The Broad.
ITSP Program Supervisor Julio Cruz walks with the group down to Souls of a Nation exhibit on the first floor of The Broad.
Three youth sit and take in a piece at the Souls of a Nation exhibit at The Broad.