Since 2016, Denver's Department of Human Services has awarded “mini grants” — usually up to $1,500 each — to community organizations that apply for funding with creative ideas of how to promote conversations and awareness around child abuse. In the past, this has included such events as a kite-building workshop, but this year, a nonprofit in northeast Denver, the Families Forward Resource Center, presented an idea that hadn't been tried before: recording songs written by foster care youth about their life experiences.
“We were excited to fund this, because it's something totally different from what we've ever done with other community partners," says Julie Smith of Denver Human Services. “Talking about the topic of child abuse and neglect is difficult for a lot of folks, and it really is a conversation that you want to have with someone that you trust. We wanted to promote those conversations and do something to encourage involvement in Child Abuse Prevention Month [which happened in April] with our community partners."
Families Forward Resource Center was one of nineteen recipients receiving a total of $20,000 from the city. But Smith said she was particularly excited to hear the recordings from the youth. Those recordings were made at SB Sound Lab on April 28, and two of the participants, fifteen-year-old Aris Denzmore and nineteen-year-old Julian Miller, agreed to share their track, “Lost and Found.”
The full song can be streamed below, including its catchy beat and uplifting lyrics, “I was lost but now I'm found. It's hard when we fall to get back up again...I finally found my way, and now I'm reaching for the clouds.”
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Denzmore and Miller were chosen by the Family Forward Resource Center after they submitted written essays about their life experiences, along with a short video of their performing ability.
Angelia Baker, the nonprofit's Youth Advisory Board Site Coordinator, characterized the recording event as empowering for the teenagers. “The youth were so excited to be there, they didn't want to leave the studio,” Baker says. “I am in awe of these young people who shared their personal stories and dared to capture the realness of their lives.”
Smith says DHS plans to continue its mini-grant program.
You can find out more about Child Abuse Prevention Month here.