You can help a child find their forever family even if adoption isn’t something you’re planning to do. Heart Gallery Alabama works together with SDHR (State Department of Human Resources) to help find forever families for children in foster care in Alabama. Visit Heart Gallery Alabama to learn more.
1. There are many ways to make a difference in a child’s life:
“You are never too old to need a family”
According to Heart Gallery Alabama (HGA) Director Michelle Bearman-Wolnek, “68% of the children we serve are between the ages of 9-15. Older youth are often languishing in the system feeling like no one cares about them, or worse yet, that they are unworthy of being adopted.”
If you want to adopt, you can be the difference in a child’s life. And if you want to help make some of these children’s wishes come true, you can join the HGA mentor program or the Dream Squad. Keep reading for details, and visit Heart Gallery Alabama to learn more about their work.
Considering adoption in Alabama? Here’s one family’s story.
The Cowart family of Homewood knew they wanted to adopt an older child, ideally from Alabama, though they were open to other options.
Back in 2017, an Internet search started them on a journey that led to welcoming a 9-year-old daughter into their family on September 27, 2019. Heart Gallery Alabama helped facilitate this process, and here is their story:
Parents Britney and Dave Cowart wanted a younger sister for their oldest daughter Lillian, now 11. When they started the adoption process, two local organizations helped them in different ways:
- Heart Gallery Alabama helped them begin the process and provided photos and videos of children who were looking for families. They also attended their final court date with gifts and took pictures.
- Children’s Aid Society of Alabama provided the training and licensing for adoption. They work with SDHR and help with paperwork. They also have caseworkers and therapists who supported them through the adoption process.
Getting ready for adoption in Alabama
Persistence paid off for the Cowarts, who said that patience and perseverance are essential qualities for anyone embarking on an adoption journey.
“When we first found Heart Gallery Alabama, we were looking all the time,” said Britney and Dave.
After a while, they had to take a break from looking, though, because they “got too obsessed.” Then one day Britney decided to check the Heart Gallery site to see if any new children had been added. Much to her surprise, she saw an 8-year old girl.
Nothing in the writeup raised red flags, so Britney texted Dave to say “this is a long shot, but there’s an 8-year old girl. She’s probably got 100s of inquiries…”
After Dave responded, “okay, let me know what they say,” Britney reached out to Heart Gallery Alabama to let them know they were interested. A couple of days later, they got an email from the state letting them know that their home study was being reviewed (along with many others, since there had, in fact, been lots of inquiries).
Much to their surprise, they found out shortly after that that they and another family were in the running for best match. On April 13, the email they’d been hoping for came: they’d been matched!
At this stage, Dave said the video from Heart Gallery really helped them get a sense of her personality before they met her.
Getting to know you…
Everyone was a little shy and nervous at the first in-person meeting. They met at a local park. Her caseworker and their adoption consultant were there and let them all play and get to know each other. While it was nerve-wracking for the Cowarts, their older daughter broke the ice, showing her pictures on Britney’s phone.
After six hours together, the professionals asked them and the girl separately if they’d like another meeting. Both said yes.
Over the next few weeks came a series of firsts as they got to know each other: the first weekend the girl stayed at their house, a trip to a school awards ceremony and many Friday night Wendy’s dinners on the trip back to Homewood after weekend visits.
Moving in and adoption day
Once school ended, the girl, whose name is now Anna, moved in with the Cowarts, and nobody’s looked back. There was a 90-day trial, with regular check-ins with a social worker, to make sure that Anna was safe and that everyone was happy with the new arrangement.
September 27, the long-awaited court date came, and after some paperwork, there were teddy bears, gifts, pictures and smiles all around as Anna became the youngest daughter in the Cowart family. Heart Gallery Alabama was there to help them celebrate. Afterward, it was off to Urban Air and a trip to get ice cream.
The Cowarts’ advice for anyone else considering adoption from foster care in Alabama
“Be patient, because the right child is out there for you.”Dave and Britney Cowart
2. Not ready to adopt? Become a mentor to a waiting child
Out of no fault of their own, children are placed into the foster care system. Approximately 300 Alabama youth age out of foster care each year.
The statistics for these youth can be grim, but with your help Heart Gallery Alabama can change that.
If you’d like to invest in a child’s future and make a direct and lasting impact on their life, attend one of HGA’s upcoming orientation sessions.
- When: Thursday, Feb. 20, 6PM and Tuesday, Feb. 25, noon.
- Where: Heart Gallery offices, 3100 Independence Drive, Suite 200, Birmingham, AL 35209.
- For more information or to preregister, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 205.445.1293.
3. Make a child’s dream come true
Do you remember your birthday parties when you were a kid?
Unfortunately, many kids in foster care have never had a birthday party. It seems like such a simple thing, but for most kids in foster care, their birthdays go completely unnoticed and are just another day without a forever family.
Heart Gallery Alabama wants to ensure that children in Alabama’s foster care system get to experience birthdays and other important occasions.
If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, visit Heart Gallery Alabama today.