In Los Angeles County alone, more than 32,000 children live under the protection of the courts after having been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Free Arts for Abused Children is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping these children, who are generally at-risk, as well as families living in crisis.
Free Arts was originally founded in 1977 by Carolyn Sargent and Elda Unger, an aspiring art therapist who saw the need for abused children in foster care to have meaningful engagement with art. By conducting art workshops, Carolyn and Elda gave the gift of creative self-expression to children in need of positive outlets for their experiences.
In 1993, the organization began coordinating art activities in the waiting areas of the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park, a courthouse dedicated exclusively to youth issues.
These activities developed into the Courthouse Program, providing children who were waiting for their court proceedings the opportunity to explore their creativity. This program continued to grow in 2000 as Free Arts was invited into the Children’s Chambers at the Lameroux Justice Center in Orange County, and then in 2009 they expanded to the McCourtney Juvenile Justice Center in Lancaster.
Free Arts also introduced the Parents and Children Together with Art (PACT) program in 1994. This program is designed to help families in crisis bond and learn new and effective ways to communicate.
Supported by grants, fundraisers and private, tax-deductible donations, Free Arts’ expressive art programs work to increase self-esteem and build positive character by harnessing the imagination and creativity of the victims of child abuse and homelessness. Creative activities such as painting, music, drama and other art forms take place on site at 12095 W. Washington Blvd. #104 Los Angeles, at residential care facilities, shelters, rehab centers and the courthouses.
Free Arts uses a large corps of volunteers who have a compassionate commitment to helping children and their families. Volunteers can be artists, musicians, actors and writers or just caring individuals who enjoy working with children and youth. Free Arts volunteer programs focus on the inherently therapeutic value of the arts to help the children and their families release anxiety, develop positive new methods of communication and build renewed trust toward adult volunteers.
Free Arts also serves these disadvantaged children through a number of programs specifically through Free Arts Days. Two to four days a month, the programs volunteers lead fun-filled art festivals where children participate at themed art stations during a three hour workshop. This program gives children an opportunity to express themselves, experiment with new mediums and engage in positive social interactions with other children and adult volunteers.
Volunteers go through training to learn how to deal with many of the sensitive situations that they may encounter while working with these youth through workshops, panel discussions, happy-hour socials, and the annual volunteer appreciation event. New volunteer training happens twice a month, and the next opportunity will be Feb. 23. Those interested in becoming volunteers can contact the coordinator at (310) 313-4278.
The services rendered by Free Arts are provided at no expense to the children, families, facilities or volunteers and consequently relies heavily on donations to keep the program running. Donations are completely tax-deductible and can be made online at www.freearts.org.