Public Release: 

'I'm a Kid Too' project completes first phase

University of Kentucky

The "I'm a Kid Too" project developed by the University of Kentucky College of Social Work and the Lexington Arts & Cultural Council (LACC) has completed its first phase of a photo documentation project that provides "medically fragile" young people with a creative outlet to express their stories. The children, their families, and program representatives celebrated their work with a dinner and presentation of their photo-essays on July 28 at the Downtown Arts Center.

"I'm a Kid Too" engages adoptive children with severe medical diagnoses to use photo-documentation as a healing and self-expressive tool. Likewise, the program hopes to educate health care providers, including physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other human services professionals through visual story-telling of the unique needs of these children born with significant medical challenges.

A pilot-test of the project, which included a photographer and a 16-year-old young man with cystic fibrosis, told an interesting story. Rather than a photo-essay about living with a severe medical condition, the young man's images illuminated the life and mind of an active 16-year-old. His story was the inspiration for the title of the project,"I'm a Kid Too!" The current project intends to use the photographs to encourage health care professionals to respond to children born with severe medical issues as young people with feelings rather than a diagnosis.

Over the past 8-weeks 14 young people between the ages of four and 22 have learned the creative and technical aspects of making photographs. The youngest children were provided with children's oversized film cameras, while the older cohort was given digital cameras. Throughout the course of the eight week project professional photographers mentored the young people, helped them hone their image making skills, and guided them in crafting their own story.

Utilizing the computer and technological resources of Tubby's Clubhouses, the older cohort was able to critique their previous week's work on state-of-the art computers, while the project coordinator and UK fine arts student Catherine Van Kempen quickly transformed the creations into a coherent slide show for all to view. With the assistance of LACC, an abbreviated version of the photo-essays were exhibited and presented in a slide show on July 28th for the young people and their families at the Downtown Arts Center. The public will have the opportunity to view the images in November.

In celebration of November as Foster Care Month, LACC will present the young people's work with a grand opening of their traveling exhibit. Other tentative locations to exhibit the work in the following months will be the UK Art Museum, Hospice of the Bluegrass, and Southland Christian Church.

In addition to the exhibition, the work will be used to educate various health care professionals through Health Care Provider Learning Seminars. The three-hour seminars will be designed to educate third-year pediatric and psychiatry residents, nurses, social workers, and nursing and social work students about the psycho-social needs of children with significant medical conditions and about the foster care system/adoptive process they encounter. It also hopes to collectively develop communication and engagement strategies that the workers can use during treatment sessions to ensure the children are treated and viewed as people, not just a diagnosis.


Jennifer Swanberg, an assistant professor in the College of Social Work, and Jim Clark from LACC worked with numerous partners to develop the project including UK College of Medicine's Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, UK Chandler Medical Center, UK Art Museum, Hospice of the Bluegrass, and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) Division of Parks and Recreation. Seed funding for the "I'm a Kid Too" project was made possible through a grant from the Johnson & Johnson and the Society for the Arts in Healthcare Partnership to Promote the Arts in Healing program.

For more information on "I'm a Kid Too", contact Jennifer Swanberg in the UK College of Social Work at (859) 257-3351.

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