The Arsenal Mall is hoping to help find suitable families for children needing adoption by hosting a small portrait gallery of local kids currently in Massachusetts foster care.
The mall will host the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange's Heart Gallery from now through Nov. 19, according to mall officials.
Since 2006, the Arsenal Mall has donated space for the portraits of children waiting for adoption. The location has sparked over 50 families to call the organization, and has provided priceless general awareness and advocacy for adoption from foster care.
The Heart Gallery travels across the state, showing a wide age, race, and special needs range of youth. Volunteer professional and amateur photographers donate their time and talent to photograph the children and teens.
Since 2005, the organization has featured over 250 children in the Heart Gallery exhibit. Nearly half of those photographed children have been matched with permanent adoptive families.
Each year, more than 600 teens turn 18 years old, "aging out" of the Massachusetts foster care system, organizers said. While support services are available, foster teens 18 years old and up are at high risk for unemployment and homelessness. So far, through public awareness programs like the Heart Gallery, the organization has helped more than 5,700 children and teens join stable and nurturing families.
However, more youth need permanent families every week, the organization said.
“We are delighted that the Arsenal Mall is donating space for the Heart Gallery this year, in an effort to help us find safe and happy homes for the state’s neediest youth,” said Lisa Funaro, executive director of the adoption organization. “All children have a great family out there… we just need to find them.”
In addition to the traveling Heart Gallery, the organization also features smaller versions of the exhibit at various locations statewide. Heart Gallery portraits can be seen at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in Boston, the Cambridge Health Alliance Malden Family Medical Center in Malden, and the Discovery Museums in Acton. Jordan’s Furniture also hosts permanent Heart Gallery displays in its Reading, Natick, Avon, and Nashua stores.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org