Foster Pride Boasts 24th Anniversary

New York-based philanthropic organization Foster Pride is celebrating their 24th anniversary this year. Foster Pride has helped over 10,000 foster children and their parents, both biological and foster, through art programs, scholarships, and mentoring. The non-profit will celebrate with an art show and cocktail party fundraiser on June 20th at Jim Kemper Fine Arts in Chelsea. The event will feature artwork made by foster children in the program. Fashion designer and TV host Rob Younkers will be the master of ceremonies, with Grammy-nominated duo Les Nubians among guest performers.

Bestselling novelist Lynn Schnurnberger founded Foster Pride in 1993. Schnurnberger was newly divorced, and began researching single-parent adoption. Although she personally decided against foster child adoption, Schnurnberger empathized with their “limbo” situation. Schnurnberger had previously run an inner-city program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and used her experience to found Foster Pride. Now happily remarried with a daughter, Schnurnberger acts as Executive Director.

An art piece from a Foster Pride child

Foster Pride partners with six different foster cares in New York. The program works on-site with children who have been placed by the agency and their families. Foster Pride helps approximately 400 kids a year through using art as a form of communication among foster children.

Schnurnberger stressed the emphasis of equal opportunity regardless of background. “What I like to say is that foster kids are like everybody else’s kids,” Schurnberger told New York Daily News. “They’re talented, but they just didn’t have you as parents.”

Foster Pride also has cultivated partnerships within the fashion industry. LF Americas, a division of Li & Fung specializing in design and consumer development, teaches Foster Pride students about careers in the fashion industry, provides yarn and financial donations and offers mentorships to students in HandMade, a program which teaches kids how to crochet and run a small business selling their creations. American Eagle Outfitters even sells the HandMade products at their “Don’t Ask Why” NYC boutique, with American Eagle designers assisting the students in what color palettes are seasonally on trend, as well as knowledge about patterns, unit pricing, and more.

“The personal connection is priceless. The girls take self-esteem in what they’re doing,” Schnurnberger said about HandMade. Their products can be found in Paris and at their online Etsy store. The Foster Pride artists who created the crochet pieces keep all proceeds.
“One day I’m gonna be walking down the street and I’ll see somebody wearing my hat. I’ll say, ‘I made that!’ And if you don’t believe me, look on the label, it’s got my name on it,” HandMade artist 15 year-old Jade said.

Foster Pride has been featured on the Today Show and in Instyle magazine. The organization also hosts a variety of on-site workshops, ranging from “You Art What You Eat” for teach healthy nutritional choices to “I Made It Myself,” a series of visual literacy courses for elementary and middle-school students. The organization even offers enrichment scholarships for private art classes for talented artists within the foster child community. Artwork from Foster Pride participants have been on display at Lincoln Center, the National Arts Club, Rockefeller Center, and the Lever House Gallery.

The main purpose of Foster Pride, though, is to build confidence and independence amongst foster children. Their “Art is Messy/Life is Messy” campaign is centered upon teaching both foster children and their two sets of parents–biological and adopted foster–how to communicate with one another for the sake of their child. “Art is Messy/Life is Messy” offers a “laboratory where parents can learn coping skills,” Schurnberger explained. Meetings can be stressful and awkward at times, specifically since most cases involve abuse. “Art gives them something constructive to do together. It acts as a bridge,” Schnurnberger said.

Foster Pride HandMade students at American Eagle’s “Don’t Ask Why” boutique
“Art is Messy/Life is Messy” also attacks the problem of harmful language among families in the foster program. “Foster kids do not have the same language ability since no one is talking directly to them,” Schnurnberger said. “People are either yelling, or the kids are overlooked in chaotic households.”
The class facilitates the education of how to properly address children and get them more interested in expressing themselves. “They learn how to deal with frustrations of art which will hopefully spill into the frustrations of life”, Schnurnberger said. Effects are immediate, with kids enrolled in the class improving in school and becoming more interested in reading.
Foster Pride children remain in touch with the organization. Foster Pride alum Sammy Hernandez, who enrolled in the program at age nine, even re-connected with the non-profit for financial advice when buying his first home. Schnurnberger lovingly called Hernandez’s daughter a “grandchild” of Foster Pride.

Tickets for the Foster Pride 24th anniversary fundraiser will be available here.

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