North Dakota Heart Gallery connects kids in need of adoptive families
One in five adults have considered adoption. Of those, 72 percent have considered adopting through foster care more than a private infant adoption or international adoption. If roughly 47 million Americans have considered adoption from foster care, why are there still 110,000 children nationwide in the system waiting to be adopted?
There is a disconnect — but thankfully there are organizations working to bridge the gap between adults who are considering adoption and kids in foster care who long for a forever family.
Nov. 18 is National Adoption Day — an effort to bring more attention and focus to adoption through the foster care system. This past week, I attended the North Dakota Heart Gallery Gala and Carnival at the Fargodome. The North Dakota Heart Gallery is a non-profit, privately funded organization that enlists professional photographers to capture portraits of foster children that showcase their sparkle and personalities. I felt a tug to attend the gala after I learned about it on Facebook.
After attending the event, I have a newfound appreciation for adoptive, forever families. I am thankful for the caseworkers and agencies matching children and families. I am thankful for each and every child waiting for their forever family. I am thankful for the donors who make a privately funded effort such as the North Dakota Heart Gallery happen.
In North Dakota alone, there are 2,000 children in foster care, which is equivalent to the number of kindergartners in Cass County, our state's most populated county. Only nine school districts in North Dakota have more than 2,000 students. There are seven counties in North Dakota with fewer than 2,000 people.
Of the 2,000 kids in foster care in North Dakota, 10 percent are in need of adoptive families. Ninety percent of those approximately 200 kids will be adopted by foster families or extended family members. That leaves approximately 20-30 kids annually in need of forever families. The good news is 224 children have been impacted in the past 10 years by the North Dakota Heart Gallery.
At the gala, the perimeter of the room was lined with easels draped in black cloths. When it came time to introduce the foster children in attendance who are a part of the North Dakota Heart Gallery this year, they each took a place by an easel. It took everything in me to maintain my composure as names were called and each child pulled the black drape off their easel, revealing their professionally captured photo. Alongside each child stood a donor of the program who provides funds for a variety of things such as shopping to buy the perfect outfit for their photo shoot.
Not every child in the North Dakota Heart Gallery was in attendance, but many were. They were older kids and sibling groups — all kinds of kids waiting for loving families. The tug I felt to attend became a call as I drove to my parents' farm after the event to write a column about the children I saw. Their faces and need changed me. What if someone reading my little column could be a forever family for one or more of these children or sibling groups?
The only adoption process I have been a part of was when my husband adopted our son Hunter two years ago. Our family knows firsthand that families are created in all sorts of ways with love at the center.
Are you one of the 47 million Americans who have considered adoption from the foster care system? Why not use National Adoption Day as a prompt to inquire more? Do you have room in your heart to give more love?
Single or married, traditional or non-traditional families, you could be the forever family to a child in our own backyard, waiting and in need. Or, maybe you can provide financial support to help grow awareness of this need? How about you bring the North Dakota Heart Gallery to your area of the state? Visit www.ndheartgallery.org or www.aasknd.org to learn more on how you can get involved.