5 things I learned at Heart Gallery Heroes including 779 children waiting to be adopted in Alabama

Heart Gallery Alabama is all about building families
“Families don’t have to match when their hearts do.” Jessi Casara Photography

Last Thursday evening, my Bham Now colleague, Gabi and I went to Heart Gallery Heroes in Birmingham for the first time. We both came away with a deeper understanding of what it takes to build families, and what a difference this makes.

We also left with an even deeper appreciation for the amazing work that Heart Gallery Alabama does. Read on for our top five takeaways, and click here if you want to learn more about their work.

1—It takes more than a village to help make the dreams of children in foster care come true

Guests at Heart gallery Heroes
Guests at Heart Gallery Heroes sampling the whiskey. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Here are some of the things that surprised me at Heart Gallery Heroes:


  • There are currently more than 6200 young people living in foster care in Alabama.
  • 80% of the prison population in Alabama has spent some time in foster care. One out of four young people who have been in foster care will be incarcerated at some point afterwards.
  • There are currently 779 children in foster care waiting to be adopted.
  • The young people who are in foster care are there because of choices the adults in their lives have made—not because of anything they’ve done.
  • 20% of the young people who age out of foster care instantly become homeless.
  • 70% of young women who age out of foster care become pregnant within two years.

It’s not a very hopeful picture. But these are young people just like any others, with their own hopes and dreams.

2—What young people in foster care want in a family is so simple it will make your heart break

Heart Gallery Alabama's traveling display is part of building families
Part of Heart Gallery Alabama’s traveling photo exhibit. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Heart Gallery Alabama showed videos of a number of children who are longing for a forever family and here is some of what they are wishing for:

  • To be loved by a family who never gives up on me
  • Someone who’s nice
  • No drugs or alcohol
  • Someone to go to the beach or camping with
  • A family who will be there and be truthful
  • People who are considerate

I was surprised to learn (it seems so obvious now) that a young person’s need for family never goes away. Think of milestones like graduating from high school, going to college, meeting someone you love, having someone walk you down the aisle, becoming a parent, and navigating the world of adults . . .


Those of us who have parents in our lives who help with all of those things don’t realize how much that support makes a difference. The young people who don’t have it, though, know, and they want that lifetime bond of love, care and support.

3—If you’re not in a position to adopt a child, consider fostering

Foster!
Foster! Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Fostering can help provide loving homes for young people before they find their forever families. The need is much greater than the than available foster homes in Alabama.

4—If you can’t foster, you can support organizations like Heart Gallery that help build families in Alabama

65% of the children Heart Gallery Alabama has photographed and videoed are now in loving forever families. That’s a pretty remarkable difference, and every bit of support helps.


Click here to read about the incredible success stories Heart Gallery Alabama has helped to create.

5—Building families by helping a young person find their forever family makes ALL the difference . . . to them, to the family, and for the rest of their lives

More of the Heart Gallery Alabama display
More of the traveling exhibit. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

We heard the story of one young man named Quon who is now part of his forever family. Here is some of what he and his family love about being together:

Quon:


  • I have a grandmother who brings me Dr. Pepper while I’m playing games.
  • After living in house after house in foster care, having a family that loves me feels great.

Quon’s family:

  • He’s pushed us and allowed us to learn about ourselves and each other, and about being parents.
  • It’s been a journey, and it still is, to become a family, and it’s worth it.

You can find out more about Heart Gallery Alabama’s work here:

It was so moving being in a room full of people who support Heart Gallery Alabama’s mission, and learning more about the work they do to help build families in Alabama.


Visit this page to find out more about how to meet or adopt the children Heart Gallery Alabama is featuring now.

Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference