|Heart Gallery puts a face on adoption|
|Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor|
Nov. 27, 2006 - The East Texas Heart Gallery, a photo exhibit using a stirring compilation of photographs featuring older and minority children and sibling groups that are hard to place, makes its way back to Sulphur Springs this week, and hopefully into the hearts of prospective families looking to adopt a child.
The traveling exhibit first came to Sulphur Springs in October of 2005, and since that time has experienced over a 50 percent success rate, according to Lanette Beaver, the coordinator for this year's event, which will be held at Alliance Bank's downtown location Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"Without our help, these children will enter adulthood without support, relationships or opportunities they need to succeed as adults," Beaver explained. "They have no grandparents or close family members who can take them in. They are starting over completely, with only a social worker to help them."
As the number of child abuse and neglect reports continue to rise, the importance of adoptive parents has never been greater, according to Jackie Hubbard, program director for the Department of Family and Protective Services, who partners with the Heart Gallery in finding permanent homes for children of the state.
"Children are our future," she said. "And putting them into the arms of loving parents as quickly as possible remains a priority."
According to Hubbard, tens of thousands of abused or neglected children come into the state's care each year in Texas, and thousands of them are never able to return to their birth families.
Like all children, those in the state's care or in foster homes need a "forever family," a home and to experience a sense of belonging, according to Patty Osborn, information specialist for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"Every child deserves a family," she said.
Finding adoptive families for older children and sibling groups is difficult, according to Beaver, who explained that data shows that a boy over age 9 has about an 80 percent chance of spending the rest of his childhood in foster care. Girls reach the same percentage at age 11.
For an older child, adoption remains important, she said.
"They all dream of a mom who will listen, and a dad who will play games with them," said Beaver. "Some children dream of siblings and pets, and some of their dreams are so basic — food in the pantry, and a warm, dry bed."
The Heart Gallery exhibits have been a huge success. Volunteer photographers strive to capture that special gleam in a child's eyes in order to produce creative portraits that provoke and arouse interest from viewers who might not otherwise ever consider adoption.
"We look for high traffic areas. It's a push for people passing by to take notice," Beaver admitted. "Sometimes all it takes is a glimpse of one special child to draw a person's attention."