Heart Gallery Mission
“The mission of Heart Gallery of America ® Inc. is to facilitate and utilize the power of photography to capture the individuality and dignity of children living in foster care, in order to advocate for their permanency, raise public awareness about their needs, and obtain support to help meet those needs.
An integral part of honoring this mission is to provide assistance and resources to Heart Gallery chapters nationwide to help them achieve parallel goals for the waiting children they represent.”
Heart Gallery . . . has led to the kind of success that may give pause to even those most doubtful of the government's ability to render righteous service to its citizens.
Heart Gallery History
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) Cathy Maier: 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 art-quality portraits.
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 wildest dreams.
Be that as it may, Granito’s idea of very publically displaying professional-quality photos of young people desiring adoption is now cited as “a best practice” by the US Children’s Bureau. Hatched in the bowels of government bureaucracy, Heart Gallery, as Granito dubbed her project, has led to the kind of success that may give pause to even those most doubtful of the government’s ability to render righteous service to its citizens. Since its inception ten years ago, Heart Gallery and its mission of placing kids with permanent adoptive parents have been duplicated many times over across the country.
Breanna, Photo by Alan Myers There are now more than 125 Heart Gallery chapters in 47 states, and their individual and combined successes inspire hope in the heart of any self-identified altruist.
Since Granito’s creation of that first Heart Gallery in Santa Fe a decade ago, she estimates the ongoing New Mexico program alone has placed hundreds of young people in permanent adoptive homes within the state. Matthew Straeb, who along with Granito co-founded the national Heart Gallery of America (HeartGalleryofAmerica.org), estimates that 5,000 children have been placed directly as a result of the organization’s efforts. Now, with the recent successful pilot Heart Gallery in Canada, the project is beginning to go global.
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 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.