Exhibit put on for foster children

Published 5:43 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When people visit the YMCA in the next month, they will see more than just treadmills and dance studios.

The Heart Gallery of Alabama is hosting a photo exhibit that started on Sept. 1 until Sept. 28 that will promote the adoption of foster children

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“Heart Gallery of Alabama is a state-wide local nonprofit that helps promote children in the adoption system,” executive director, Michelle Bearman-Wolnek, said. “It’s to bring awareness that there are children in our backyard that are available for adoption.”           

The exhibit is a collection of children’s faces and a short biography to have families get to know the children better.

“It’s not to make these children just a name, but put a face behind each child,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “There are 6,000 children in foster care and that may seem overwhelming, but you can connect and it becomes much more real. These children are not just a statistic.”

 Bearman-Wolnek said all of the children being featured in this exhibit are not from Greenville or Montgomery.

“The exhibit is random,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “We try to make sure in every exhibit that we have a diverse group. The only time we do show children from where they are from is if that child has said they would like to stay where they are.”

Bearman-Wolnek said every child that Heart Gallery puts up for adoption has special needs.

“[The children] usually range from eight to15, but we do have younger children. We will not have babies. We do have younger children, and they have special needs like behavioral issues. Every child has a history of abuse, and that’s the reason why they are there. That’s why potential families need to go through training.”

Special needs also can also include if the child has a sibling.

“A child may be special needs just because you have a brother, which means you might be harder to place,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “These children are used to be hard to place children, but we don’t use that anymore. There’s no child that’s hard to place.”

The Department of Human Resources is in charge of the actual placement, Bearman-Wolnek said, but the Heart Gallery is trying to help get the word out.

“The Heart Gallery helps connect potential families to available children,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “If [families] have questions, they can call us and we can direct them on how to get started. [We want to] just to be advocates for the older youth and foster care.”

If people want more information or more than just a biography at the exhibit, people can visit heartgalleryalabama.com to see additional portraits of children as well as videos to listen to interviews. 

“We have about 30 portraits on display, and we have photo shoots in different parts of the state,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “We invite the children and different photographers to come to capture their personality, and we try to use as many different photographers as possible.”

The exhibit is open to the public, and Bearman-Wolnek invites every one of all ages to come view the exhibit.

“We’re just realty exited to be in Greenville,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “When we have been in smaller communities, we’ve had a great response, because they’re so focused on family and caring for their community members. Nationwide, the smaller communities are the places people adopt, and we’re just thrilled to be in a good location.”