The Rhode Island Heart Gallery, established in 2005, features professional portraits of children who patiently wait in Rhode Island foster care hope of finding loving families or other permanent connections. You can see them at Bristol's Quinta Gamelin Center.
At any given time in Rhode Island, approximately 2,100 children under the age of 21 are in state care, in out-of-home placements, and awaiting permanency, and between 100 to 200 of them are available and awaiting adoption, most between the ages of 5 and 18.
The Rhode Island Heart Gallery, established in 2005, features professional portraits of children who patiently wait in Rhode Island foster care hope of finding loving families or other permanent connections. The gallery is renewed annually, and travels the state, spending a month in each of 12 locations.
For the month of March, the Heart Gallery is gracing the walls of the Quinta Gamelin Center, and all are invited to see the spirit and courage portrayed in this powerful gallery. According to Warren Rensenhausen, Director of Parks and Recreation, the Gallery is in Bristol thanks to the efforts of The Honorable Paul Jones and his wife Linda, Bristol residents and supporters of Adoption Rhode Island who made the connection between the center and the agency.
“It's just a handful of the almost 200 kids that are in foster care at any given time waiting for permanent homes and permanent families,” said Donna Rivera, Marketing and Communications Director for Adoption Rhode Island. “The gallery goes to a different venue each month in hopes of raising awareness about the children. When people get to see their beautiful faces it makes a difference.
“We have a pretty good rate of adoptions as a result of the Heart Gallery — even if someone sees one of the portraits and they get in touch with us and learn more about it, maybe it's a different child that they end up falling in love with.”
Adoption Rhode Island has information meetings once a month for people who are interested in learning more about adoption from foster care, dispelling the myths about people in foster care, and learning the process once they if they decide to go forward. The agency also runs several programs in support of the children they care for. There’s a program called Forever Siblings that arranges get-togethers for siblings who were adopted by different families. There’s Team Focus, a program that helps support older youth, whether they want to be adopted or transition to independent living. There’s a family search and engagement program called Extreme Family Finding where they seek out relatives that would be able to take the kids.
“That's worked out really well,” said Rivera. “The families and the connections that they've made for kids are amazing. They might not want to adopt but at least they can establish some sort of relationship which is great.”
Mentors, connections sought
Most available kids, regardless of age, would love to be adopted. Outcomes for those who are adopted are unequivocally better than for those who are not, despite the best efforts of adoption Rhode Island. Sadly, many never are.
“Unfortunately it's a lot higher than we would like,” said Rivera, who emphasized that people don’t need to adopt to make a difference in the life of one of these local kids. “Everybody has something to give to a child. You don't have to necessarily adopt. Maybe you're you want to mentor them. Maybe you want to hold art class or or come to our offices and do a workshop,” she said.
“Even if a child just has a permanent connection, a permanent relationship with somebody, they're receiving guidance.”
“There are so many beautiful children in Rhode Island who need a place to call home. By bringing everyone together through this project, we can make a lifetime of difference for these children," said Darlene Allen, CEO and Executive Director at Adoption Rhode Island. "I am thrilled to partner with DCYF, Printmakers, local businesses, and all the amazing photographers through the Heart Gallery project to highlight images of some of these children.”
Information session in Bristol March 27
For adults interested in learning more about adoption from foster care, a special information meeting will be held at the Quinta Gamelin Center on Monday, March 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. People are welcome to contact Amanda Choiniere at Adoption Rhode Island via email at email@example.com or by phone at 401/865-6000 ×313 for more information or to register.
“We’re all about kids,” said Rensenhausen. “It makes perfect sense for us to host this here at the center, and especially the Q&A night on the 27th.”