When many people think of childhood memories, they might think of happy, carefree days when the world seemed simpler and more magical. But not everyone gets to have those memories, as photographer Rob Woodcox knows from personal experience. Adopted as a baby, he personally has no memories of the hardship, but his work as a counselor at a camp for foster children opened his eyes to the harrowing memories some children lived with. The Oregon-based artist uses his talent to spread awareness of the journeys of foster children, many of whom has to go through hardships as very young children that some adults couldn”t begin to imagine.

Please note that due to legal issues, the children you see in the photos are not the foster children from whom Woodcox drew his inspiration, but are models and volunteers. Foster children cannot be photographed for their own safety.

Woodcox”s series, Stories Worth Telling, shows in unflinching but beautiful ways the feelings the children experienced through their journeys. The photos are symbolic representations–rather than literal ones, which would be possibly traumatic–of the feelings of fear, loss and brokenness that came with the separation of their families. However, the series doesn”t remain mired in the darker aspects; instead Woodcox shows the children as undertaking adventures as brave explorers, and while they struggle through the frightening times.

The series concludes with bright, hopeful and loving images as the children find family and community. While the series is a somber exploration of the hardships endured by adopted and foster children, it”s also a celebration of their triumphs and will to survive.

Woodcox hopes that his art will help people become aware of all the children the world over who need help, and his site features links to adoption and foster care organizations. With his series, he wants to spread the message that “foster children exist, are wonderful children, and need support from loving volunteers and homes.”

You can find the rest of Woodcox”s work on his site, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

Via My Modern Met