Guest Blog: Shelly Willis on the Voices of Children and Kinship Caregivers Contest

Most children find safety and comfort in the arms and care of their family, including grandparents and other relatives. However, for more than 2 million children in the USA, living with a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or other family member has become a long-term arrangement called Kinship Care. When parents are unable to care for their children, placing them with a family member has proven to reduce the trauma some children experience when placed with strangers.  Research also indicates that Kinship placements are more likely to sustain family traditions, culture, and connections to other extended family members. Kinship Care placements keep families together, however, sometimes these placements are a surprise to both the child and the relative caregiver.

What does it mean to a child who can’t live with their parents to know he or she is safe, loved, and has a place to belong? Some answers to this question are offered in the annual Voices of Children contest. This is the 24th year where children across Washington have submitted original essays, poems, and artwork sharing their stories of Kinship Care.  Three years ago, the contest expanded to include the submissions from Kinship Caregivers themselves and adults who were raised in Kinship Care. Two winners are chosen from the contest categories recognized below:

  • Children 5-9 years
  • Children 10-13 years
  • Children 14-18 years
  • Kinship Caregivers and/or adults who were raised in Kinship Care ages 19+

Winners are chosen by a team of judges from across our state and each submission has the opportunity to be included in the annual “Voices of Children” publication. Those submitting winning entries will be recognized at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia, and each winning applicant will receive $100 donated by Twin Star Credit Union and a variety of other prizes.  The contest launched January 1, 2024, and will end April 21, 2024, with a celebration ceremony in May. The contest is coordinated by Family Education & Support Services, and you can access an entry form by visiting the Voices of Children Contest on the FESS website, opens a new window.

Some are funny, some serious or even sad, but all entries are sincere and offer testimony to the value, sense of family, and love each artist experienced living in Kinship Care. If you have any questions please contact Trista Mason at Family Education and Support Services at 360-754-7629 or email  We look forward to sharing with you the winning entries of the contest in May 2024.

Voices of Children and Caregivers


Submit an ESSAY, POEM or ORIGINAL ARTWORK representing your experience in Kinship Care

  • Contest entries must be submitted by April 21, 2024. (See Contest Entry Form)
  • Winners will be notified by May 4, 2024
  • A Celebration Ceremony honoring those submitting winning entries will be held May 15, 2024.

TRL thanks and acknowledges the work of FESS in the 5 county service area, helping their families connect to TRL libraries, staff, and resources.

TRL Partners is a blog series featuring community contributors from around Timberland Regional Library's 5-County service area.