The Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel once said that children bring a little bit of heaven to humankind. Yet, every day, thousands of children languish in the nation’s foster care system. It is through no fault of their own that these boys and girls find themselves virtually alone in this great big world. They are innocents, after all, children who have been abandoned by or taken from families who could not or would not provide them with a safe, loving home. They are little people with no voice and with no one who can promise to be there for them for the rest of their lives – or even the next day. They deserve better.
The Heart Gallery of New Jersey, a unique not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about adoptable foster children, put a face on children available for adoption. Co-founded by Najlah Feanny Hicks and Pim Van Hemmen in 2005, they brought together some of the country’s most prestigious photographers who volunteered their time and talents to produce stirring images of more than 350 New Jersey foster children. Images that captured not just their beauty, but also their individuality and their spirit.
Their photographs appear on the HGNJ website and through gallery exhibits, in the hope that they will attract prospective parents and that the children will finally find permanent, loving families.
Nationwide press coverage including 20/20, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, Star-Leger, USA Today, and People Magazine publicized the plight of these children, culminating in more than 22 million hits on the Heart Gallery web site in less than three months.
Three years later, more than 150 of the children photographed have been adopted and are living with their “forever families”. We are humbled by that.
But what happens to foster children who age out of care without ever having been adopted? Sadly, many of them will experience homelessness.
Did you know that 25,000 foster children age out of care each year without ever having been adopted?
Did you know that almost 40% experience homelessness?
Did you know that three out of every ten adults admit to a history in foster care?
We didn’t know any of these facts when we formed the HGNJ but it quickly became clear that many of the children we met were teenagers.
In a perfect world, every foster child would be adopted, but we all know this world isn’t perfect. We ask you to join us in putting a face on activism and doing 1 thing to help these homeless teens.