In 2001, as a foster and adoptive parent recruiter for the New
Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD), I had the
honor of developing an idea from photographer (and adoptive mother)
to have talented photographers create inspiring portraits of older
children and sibling groups who were waiting for adoption.
At the time, social services agencies had to use whatever images
of the children they could get, and most were as inspiring as a
driver's license photo. With the support of CYFD,
I approached Lisa Bronowicz at the Gerald
Peters Gallery in Santa Fe about hosting an exhibit of these
That's how "The Heart Gallery," as I dubbed it, was born.
More than 1,200 people attended the first opening, Randy Travis
serenaded the crowd, and connections were made that night leading
to the adoption of six Heart Gallery children. We all knew we were
on to something special, though what was to come has exceeded our
The vast majority of states now have Heart Galleries, and many
have more than one. Every day I receive an inspirational e-mail
from a Heart Gallery group, or see the results of the outreach here
in my home state of New Mexico. A few examples:
- Five older children found a home after years of waiting,
- a girl who had just "aged out" (turned 18) was adopted
after she had given up hope, an aunt spotted her long-lost
niece being photographed and ended up adopting her.
- Four photographers have adopted their charming subjects
What does finding a family mean to a child?
A judge asked two young New Mexico brothers, Isaiah and Elijah,
known as "The Growley Rowley Boys" to their adoptive parents
Elle and Gene Rowley, whether they had anything to say at their
adoption finalization. Isaiah piped up loudly: "We are Growley
Rowley Boys forever now, right?" (Elijah just grinned and said,
"I like Blue's Clues!")
While Heart Gallery exhibits have helped raise awareness about
adoption through foster care and have found homes for hundreds of
children, there are many more who need our help. 119,000 American
children are waiting for adoption as you read this. They need any
and all support you can provide.
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