|Across the United States, renowned photographers are capturing the spirits and personalities of children in need of homes. And their actions --and photos -- are worth much than a thousand words. The report is narrated by Amy Katz. |
"Can I have your smile?” asks the photographer. “Bigger one. Come on girl. I know it's in there."
Finally, 14-year-old Nechelle, shy and nervous, puts a sweet smile on her face.
And a lot is riding on that smile. It may change her life. Nechelle is looking for something that most people take for granted: a loving family.
"Actually I have never been with my mom,” says Nechelle. “I have been with my grandma for all my life. And when I turned 11, that is when I was in foster care."
In the U.S., about 120,000 children in the public welfare system are waiting to be adopted.
The Heart Gallery was founded for those children. It is designed to win hearts and homes for the children, through their compelling pictures. To achieve that goal many professional photographers, some of whom command thousands of dollars for a portrait or an ad, donate their time and talent.
"I thought it's something really, really good to be involved with. And I really want to help these children find a home. I want to be part of that process," says
Cameron Davidson, an award winning photographer who is well known for his aerial photography and portraits.
"My initial concern is to try to capture a sense of honesty and personality to try to show the world what they really are, who they really are, and to evoke a sense of warmth," he told us.
The pictures, which are much different from typical headshots that accompany the children's files in foster care, eventually are displayed in gallery exhibits and on Websites. The hope is that prospective parents will see the photos and be moved to inquire about adoption.
That's exactly what happened with the picture of Steven.
"When I went to the National Heart Gallery in Tampa, Florida, I saw Steven's picture,” says Ron Hancock, now an adoptive father. “As soon as I saw it, I knew he is going to be part of my life."
Ron came to celebrate at a Heart Gallery exhibit in Union Station in Washington, DC.
Melinda and Andrew Somerville from New Mexico are the adoptive parents of three sisters.
"The picture just said something,” said Melinda. “I can't tell you what it said. It just said 'something' to us. These were the ones."
The idea for the Heart Gallery originated in New Mexico in 2001. Since then the exhibits have inspired many Heart Gallery organizations, which have become a strong nationwide movement.
Maxine Baker is president of the Freddie Mac Foundation, a non-profit organization, which sponsors the Washington, D.C. area Heart Gallery.
"Let's remember these children are in the foster care system because they are abused and neglected by their biological families. So they are looking for loving permanent homes," said Ms. Baker.
There is a term for those who never find a family. It's called 'aging out'. Children who are not adopted by the age of 18 are simply released into the world.
"I would like to be a lawyer to help and protect children," says Nechelle.
Hopefully, there will be adoptive parents who can help her achieve that dream.