LAKE STATION â They look like happy, healthy youngsters, smiling in the professionally done photos in the cafÃ© area of BellaBoo’s Play and Discovery Center, but the photos don’t show the most important thing missing in their lives: a loving family.
For the third year in a row, BellaBoo’s is hosting the portraits from the Indiana Heart Gallery, a traveling photo exhibit of children needing adoptive homes. The gallery is a project of the Indiana Department of Child Services and was started in 2007, but has grown in the last four or five years, getting into more communities, according to Amanda Schortgen, spokesperson for the gallery.
“There are 18 DCS regions in the state and we make sure we get into every region at least once a year, and, at some point, we want to get into every county.” Schortgen said. “The gallery doesn’t feature every kid up for adoption. Only 57 were featured in the gallery last year, and there are only 10 portraits at BellaBoo’s.
“We focus on the hard to place children who are older. All are more than 2, and a majority are 6 to 14. We also feature children in sibling pairs or groups, which also makes them tougher to place if they want to stay together. Some also have special needs, whether emotional, mental or physical. We are trying to put the emphasis on those children who are going to need extra care in order to find the family that will be a perfect fit for them.”
All those featured in the BellaBoo’s exhibit are from southern Indiana. Schortgen said that’s done so as not to reduce the chances they will be embarrassed by being recognized by classmates.
The Heart Gallery helped place more than 1,000 Indiana foster children in homes in 2014, and, on average, the DCS is looking for 120 to 150 adoptive homes statewide at any given time. Nationally, more than 400,000 children are in foster care with about 100,000 of those available for adoption. For some, adoption can mean the difference between homelessness or incarceration and becoming a successful adult.
‘Every child needs a family they can call their own’
“Every child needs a family they can call their own,” Sandra Caesar, DCS adoption program manager, said. “We need families that are not only willing to love our children, but are also prepared to commit to them, claim them as their own and hang in there through their ups and downs.”
Each of the portraits at BellaBoo’s comes with a smaller photo card visitors can take with them. The card contains a little of the child’s story, their hobbies and interests, and includes information on adoption. BellaBoo’s General Manager Kara Mackey said she kept the cards of two of the youngsters on her desk for six months because they reminded her of her own children. Mackey said she has no room to adopt any children right now, but she’s doing what she can to support the gallery.
“It was beautiful the…