|Older children who have been in foster care often are overlooked by those considering adoption, but a display by the Adoption Coalition of Texas showcasing photographs of children in need of a permanent home is intended to help change that.
"When you think of adopting, you think of infants," said Liana Lowey, program director of Voices for Children. "One of the target populations with the Heart Gallery is those who maybe are not what you think of as traditional-aged adoptees."
The Heart Gallery display opens Sunday at Post Oak Mall and features portraits of 140 Texas children - including about 15 from the Brazos Valley - who are seeking permanent placement in an adoptive home.
"They need a forever family," Lowey said. "Anyone can adopt. Someone can be single, and you don't have to own a home. It's just having a connection with that child and wanting to provide a safe, loving and permanent home for them."
Adoptive parents undergo background checks, interviews, reference checks, a visit to their home by Child Protective Services officials and a series of classes on parenting and discipline, said Chris Van Deusen, public information officer for the Department of Family and Protective Services.
"It's a very lengthy process, and it does take time," he said. "It's a fairly invasive process because we've got to make sure these homes are safe for these children who have already undergone some trauma."
Van Deusen said there are a variety of reasons children enter foster care. Some are the victims of abuse or neglect; others have parents who are unwilling or unable to provide basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter.
The most common reason is that a child is not being supervised properly and harms himself or herself or gets into a dangerous situation, Van Deusen said.
There are 330 children in foster care in the Brazos Valley, including 130 in Brazos County and almost 20,000 statewide, Van Deusen said. Of those in the Brazos Valley, 45 need placement in an adoptive home because their parents' rights have been terminated, he said. Twenty in Brazos County need a permanent home.
Sometimes, children turn 18 in foster care because there is not a permanent home where they can be placed, Van Deusen said.
"We need Texans out there to be willing to take these children into their home to keep that from happening," he said.
Lowey said that all children need the emotional support that comes from having an adopted family.
"Even after you're 18, you still need a family to be a part of the rest of your life," she said. "It's not just infants that are in need of adoptive homes."
The Heart Gallery display, which has traveled to malls throughout Central Texas and will be at Post Oak through April 7, calls attention to the number of children who need a permanent home, Lowey said.
"Being able to see the faces that go with the names can make it so much more real for our community," she said.
For more information about adopting a child in foster care, visit www.adoptchildren.org
Arena Welch's e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org