Elizabeth and Scott Kent had considered adopting an older child through Child Protective Services. When they visited a nearby church and saw the photos in the Heart Gallery exhibition — face after face of children in North Texas waiting to be adopted — it sealed their decision.
“That was our turning point,” Elizabeth says. “People can throw statistics at you all day long … The Heart Gallery is basically showing you that these kids are like any other kid walking down the street. These are children in the greater Dallas area. These are children who have been photographed by professional photographers who have donated their time. It is a really, really moving experience. It makes you realize that these kids are out there and in your back yard.”
Elizabeth and Scott adopted their first daughter, Eva, at birth about four years ago. After seeing the photo exhibition, they decided to adopt a second child through CPS. Their license to adopt should be granted any day, and then they will begin working with a social worker to find a child.
“We’re really OK opening our hearts to any child who will fit in our home,” Elizabeth says.
Because of their powerful experience with the Heart Gallery, the worked to bring it to their own congregation, Lake Highlands United Methodist Church, where the traveling photo exhibit will be visiting this month. The exhibit is open to the community.
The Heart Gallery does more than encourage adoption; it also raises awareness of the many ways to be involved with children in foster care, from donating school supplies to volunteering to be a mentor, Elizabeth says.
“You don’t have to (adopt),” Elizabeth says. “Even if you can give them a toothbrush, something is better than nothing.”
The Heart Gallery first opened in New Mexico in 2001. CPS launched the program in Texas a few years ago to feature local children. Then, earlier this year, volunteer organization The Faith Connection took over the exhibition for CPS in North Texas. All of the photos and displays were updated over the summer, featuring 81 children in 67 photographs.
There are generally 5,000 children in foster care in North Texas and about 1,000 waiting to be adopted, says Marissa Gonzales, spokeswoman for CPS. She says the Heart Gallery and the volunteers who coordinate it really help children in North Texas.
“There are a lot of misconceptions of children in foster care,” Gonzales says. “People believe … they are broken or damaged. The reality is they are children like any other. And they need parents like any other children.”
where/ Lake Highlands United Methodist Church, 9015 Plano
when/ Saturday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 23; volunteers will be on-hand to answer questions before and after services
what else/ The opening reception Sept. 8 from 7-9 p.m. features refreshments and live classical music. When the exhibit closes Sept. 23, an informational meeting from noon-2:30 p.m. will provide input from various organizations that serve foster children about how to get involved.