Nine years in foster care is bound to make a mark on a young life. And it's impossible not to see the scars in the artwork of Jamie Navarro.
The 18-year-old, a senior student at Clovis West High School, created a pen drawing of a mother and child titled "All You Need Is Love." The artwork won first place in the 2009 Children, Youth and Elders Art Contest, a competition for California foster youth.
The drawing is featured as the month of January in a 2010 calendar with the theme "A Lifetime of Love: The Importance of Friends, Family and Belonging." The calendar has been distributed to child welfare professionals to create a better understanding about the importance of love and permanent connections for foster youth.
Jamie's drawing is a micrography, an art form that uses minuscule script to create figurative designs or abstract shapes. In depicting a girl reaching up to her mother, for example, Jamie fashioned the mother's sweater out of the word "regret." The girl's dress is crafted out of the word "love."
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Jamie says the words she selected come from personal experience. She entered foster care at age 9 -- and she has had seven placements in nine years.
"If I see people who are less fortunate, I know what perspective they're in," she says.
Jamie lived nearly five years with one family until her foster father Marcus Ramos' death in March. Ramos was pastor of Christian Worship Center in Malaga.
Living with one family for that length of time has helped Jamie to learn a sense of stability, says Elizabeth Rocha-Lee, a social worker with Aspiranet foster care and family services agency in Fresno.
Jamie says the overriding theme in her artwork is love. She created it for an assignment in a Clovis West art class a couple of years ago. "The idea behind it is the girl doesn't need everything in the world; she just needs a mother's love," Jamie says. "The girl is that message."
Jamie now lives with members of the extended Ramos family, Joseph and Allegra Ramos.
"She's a talented kid who has been able to overcome a lot in her life, which is refreshing to see," Allegra Ramos says.
Jamie has been accepted to California State University, Fresno, and wants to become a pediatrician. She plans to minor in art.