Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bringing waiting children into the light

As we celebrate November's National Adoption Month, the Heart Gallery of Iowa will be traveling around the state to raise awareness for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. 

While the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunify children with their birth families, sometimes children cannot return home and they may need a new permanent home through adoption. The Heart Gallery is one way to help raise awareness of these waiting children.

Ever wondered what the Heart Gallery is or how it started? Jerusha, our Heart Gallery of Iowa coordinator, shares its great story below and ways to learn more! Thanks Jerusha!
The National Heart Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The Heart Gallery gets its start
What do you see when you look into the eyes of a child? Innocence, perhaps? Wonder? Pure joy? 

A poignant photograph of a child can reveal these same qualities and emotions—and may elicit emotion from those who view it. 

It was this very concept that led to the creation of a unique way to help children in foster care find adoptive families: the Heart Gallery.
The very first Heart Gallery was formed by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department in 2001 as a way to raise awareness about adoption and find homes for older children and sibling groups in foster care. 
Photographer and adoptive mother Cathy Maier Callanan suggested that stirring, professional portraits would be a fresh way to show people the unique personalities of children waiting to be adopted.
This idea was implemented and named by Department recruiter Diane Granito, who obtained donations from businesses and organizations in her community. 
Over 1,200 people attended the grand opening of the first annual “Heart Gallery” exhibit at the prestigious Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 9, 2001. 
This event drew media attention and resulted in the adoption of many of the featured children. Now this exhibit of about 50 current portraits travels throughout New Mexico each year to raise awareness and interest in the children legally available for adoption in that state.
A decade later, there are now Heart Galleries in 45 states, including Iowa. These exhibits create public awareness of the children in each state waiting to be adopted and also hopefully touch families and inspire them to adopt a child. 
The talent and generosity of photographers
These compelling images not only reveal the spirit of the child, but also reflect the compassion, generosity and talent of each of the photographers behind the lens. 
Iowa photographer Mark Oehler, after photographing a child for the Heart Gallery of Iowa, said “It was my privilege. It is a small way for me to give back.”  
These skilled photographers, volunteering their time at no cost to the agencies, capture the individuality of each child and have helped hundreds of children find permanent, loving families.

"I am completely honored to have the opportunity to help a child who is going through a similar situation that I have already [experienced.] I became a photographer to help people and I am so grateful for the opportunity to help." - Alaina Ellington, Iowa photographer. 

The Heart Gallery of Iowa
Here in Iowa, Iowa KidsNet created the Heart Gallery of Iowa to spotlight our own waiting children.

November is National Adoption Month, and the Heart Gallery of Iowa will be displayed across the state throughout the month. You can view portraits of waiting Iowa children at an event near you!

Visit our events page to see where the Heart Gallery of Iowa will be displayed next. 

The National Heart Gallery in Washington, D.C.
In 2005, thanks to the diligent efforts of adoption advocates across the country, a National Heart Gallery was established in Washington, D.C. 

This year, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the formation of the first Heart Gallery, and in honor of National Adoption Month, a National Heart Gallery Exhibit will be displayed on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. 

The National Heart Gallery Exhibit will feature beautiful photos of children across the nation hoping to find their "forever families." Find out more at www.nationalheartgalleryexhibit.org.

Also, click on the Gallery page to view photos and short descriptions of featured children from each of the Heart Galleries across the country, including Allen, a waiting Iowa child!
National organizations have noticed the effectiveness of this unique recruitment tool. The US Children's Bureau named the “Heart Gallery” as a best practice in the field of adoption, and The Smithsonian Photography Initiative included Photography changes the ways families are formed, a great story about Heart Gallery photography written by Diane Granito, in their web feature Click! Photography Changes Everything.
Thanks to one photographer with a creative idea and one worker with a big heart—and hundreds of compassionate parents, advocates, and volunteers after them—the Heart Gallery has helped untold numbers of children in foster care who are waiting for adoptive families step from the shadows into the light.


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