Heart Gallery: Helping Foster Children Find FOREVER FAMILIES; Part Four of Interview with Barbara Schechter

By AbbyA

As our final day of Luck v. Faith, we are sharing with you a wonderful organization that brings foster children to forever families through photography.  Barbara Schechter is the Executive Director of Heart Gallery.  In addition to sharing about Heart Gallery, Barbara gives her comments on luck, faith and ministering to foster kids.

“I don’t attribute finding a forever family to luck because I do believe that God has a plan for each of us and that the Heart Gallery helps to carry out His plan for these children.”    Barbara Schechter

What about Heart Gallery photographers?  Tell us about their role in the organization.  How do your photographers feel when they become aware that their photo drew a family to a child?  Any stories you’d like to share?

The photographers are so dedicated! They love to donate their time and they are a very talented group. The Heart Gallery wants to include any professional photographer who has the desire to participate. Our only rule is that they have to be a professional (although we do use some amateur photographers for event photos). When a local child’s adoption is finalized, we invite the photographer to attend the adoption. It’s a very emotional time and probably the most rewarding part of what we do. A number of the photographers have written about their experiences on their blogs. They tell it better than I do!

The Words of Sandy Levy: I would like to talk about a very touching moment as a result of photographing kids waiting for adoption for the Heart Gallery of Broward.  What happened was that a child named Cleveland was one of the kids that I photographed several months ago for the Heart Gallery. I shot Cleveland, just a week or two before he turned 18, he was adopted.

This is particularly special and critical because: Once a child turns 18, they are no longer in the program and are considered adults. Then they are more or less on their own. It is quite unusual for a child that old to get adopted. In some extreme cases, they end up in the streets.

Barbara Schechter Executive Director of The Heart Gallery of Broward County pulled me aside at an awards presentation event on Oct. 14, and told me that my photo was responsible for Cleveland’s new Mom becoming interested in adopting him. Obviously Barbara was very pleased and frankly, it really gave me a very warm feeling as well, as this was also very special for me.

Barbara contacted me a week or two later asking if I could be at the courthouse when the official adoption took place in the Judges chambers. She told me she would understand if I could not be there, but she hoped that I would be able to go. Of course I accepted and I did not mind taking a camera.

The reason that Cleveland’s adoption was rushed in the judge’s chambers before National Adoption Day was that by Nov. 15, Cleveland would be over 18 and therefore ineligible for this type of adoption.

Cleveland and his Mom also thanked me privately and that was very nice to hear. In addition, Cleveland would possibly like to become a photographer. I found out he is already an accomplished amateur photographer as he proudly showed me some of his photos.

I must say that the feeling of satisfaction knowing that an image that you make was in some way at least partly responsible for a difficult-to-adopt child to find a family, is quite amazing and wonderful.

I told NBC 6 that I cannot recall another photo assignment that was as personally satisfying to me in my 40 years as a professional photographer. Not monetarily satisfying of course, but personally satisfying!.

You can find more information about Sandy Levy and his photographic work at his main website  www.levyphoto.com or http://asmpflorida.blogspot.com/2009/12/asmp-south-florida-members-spot-light.html.

To hear another photographer ‘s personal experience, check out http://blog.brighthousephotography.com/search/label/personal   (Scroll down to August 2 for Ashlee’s Story).

If you are interested in getting involved with Heart Gallery, please visit www.heartgalleryofbroward.org or call or email Barbara Schechter directly.  Tel: 954-918-3008 or barbara@heartgalleryofbroward.org.

Heart Gallery: Helping Foster Children Find FOREVER FAMILIES; Part Three of Interview with Barbara Schechter

By AbbyA

As we move into our final week of Luck v. Faith, we are sharing with you a wonderful organization that brings foster children to forever families through photography.  Barbara Schechter is the Executive Director of Heart Gallery.  In addition to sharing about Heart Gallery, Barbara gives her comments on luck, faith and ministering to foster kids.

“I don’t attribute finding a forever family to luck because I do believe that God has a plan for each of us and that the Heart Gallery helps to carry out His plan for these children.”    Barbara Schechter

Describe that first phone call to Heart Gallery when a family reaches out to adopt a particular child.  Is it your experience that families feel that fate or God’s will is at work in bringing a new child into their family? 

There are two types of callers – those who are already licensed and looking to find a specific child and those who have just started thinking about adoption and know little or nothing about the process. People who are looking for a specific child have often fallen in love with a picture, but are confident in their desire to adopt. They have been through a long, thorough process so they know that adoption is what they want. The new people usually have some fear or uncertainty about adopting a child from foster care and need to better understand what to expect. Bringing a stranger into your family forever can be a scary thing to do and there’s always a fear that the match will not work out. It’s a journey that not everyone is prepared for. Christian families usually believe that it is God’s will for them to adopt and they prayerfully consider this big step vs. the alternative of going with one’s gut instinct.

You mentioned to me that some people don’t even realize that they are called to adopt.  Please elaborate on that.

This applies to both adoption and foster parenting. Christians consider it a calling and they are obedient to the call. They don’t give up on difficult children and they understand when the outcome is not what they would have wanted. The best example of this is people who do foster-to-adopt, which greatly increases one’s chances to adopt a younger child. Because foster parents are usually given the first opportunity to adopt when a child in their care becomes available, many people foster with the hope or expectation that they will be able to adopt that child. When it doesn’t work out, either the child is reunited with their birth parents or a relative comes forward to adopt, many people find this hard to accept because they have bonded with the child and their hopes are dashed. Christians generally understand that God is in control and that the outcome is His will. Many non-Christians find this ‘gamble’ too difficult to take.

If a family is not ready to adopt, but wants to get involved in the Heart Gallery, how can they help? 

Our mantra is that everyone can do something to help a foster child. If a family is not prepared to foster or adopt, they can donate gently used items to a foster care agency or volunteer to help at an event for foster children. There are a number of opportunities for people who want to have a closer relationship with a foster child, including tutoring or mentoring (Note- The agencies do not allow children under the age of 15 to volunteer directly with the foster children). Mentoring is a top priority right now, as children need a constant adult in their life who is not paid to supervise them. Mentors are a combination of trusted friend and parent surrogate. Moreover, as the child gets older, the mentor can be the safety net that the child needs when they are on their own – a trusted relationship. The Heart Gallery compiles a guide to volunteering with foster children that is available on the home page of our web site, www.heartgalleryofbroward.org.  Or if you’d like to volunteer to help with Heart Gallery events, please contact me. We’d love to get you involved!

If you are interested in getting involved with Heart Gallery, tune in for the rest of the week for more of Barbara Schechter’s interview.  You can also visit www.heartgalleryofbroward.org or call or email Barbara directly.  Tel: 954-918-3008 or barbara@heartgalleryofbroward.org.

Heart Gallery: Helping Foster Children Find FOREVER FAMILIES; Part One of Interview with Barbara Schechter

By AbbyA

As we move into our final week of Luck v. Faith, we are sharing with you a wonderful organization that brings foster children to forever families through photography.  Barbara Schechter is the Executive Director of Heart Gallery.  In addition to sharing about Heart Gallery, Barbara gives her comments on luck, faith and ministering to foster kids.

“I don’t attribute finding a forever family to luck because I do believe that God has a plan for each of us and that the Heart Gallery helps to carry out His plan for these children.”    Barbara Schechter

What is Heart Gallery and how did you get involved?

The Heart Gallery of Broward is a traveling exhibit and website of photos of foster children in Broward who are available for adoption. In nearly all cases, the children’s parental rights have been terminated by the courts, so they will remain in the foster care system until a family adopts them or until they turn 18. The photos are taken by professional photographers who donate their time. The exhibit travels every month or two to a new location in Broward. It goes to high-traffic places like malls, libraries and office buildings, as well as large churches. The objective is to raise awareness about foster care adoption and about other ways that people can help foster children, such as foster parenting, mentoring or Guardian ad Litem.

I originally got involved as a board member in the organization’s first year. I claimed that I was too busy to be involved, but I became more and more drawn to what the Heart Gallery was doing. I had recently retired from a marketing career, but felt called to go back and run the Heart Gallery when they needed their first full-time employee. It has been hugely rewarding to see it grow from a simple idea four years ago into to an organization that has found ‘forever families’ for over 60 children and raised awareness about foster care among so many people.

What does it mean to have a “forever family”? 

The term is synonymous with ‘adoptive family’. To the child, ‘forever’ means that they no longer live their lives with uncertainty about their future- not knowing where they will live next or for how long, and whether they will need to make a life on their own when they turn 18. Most of the children come from families that never gave them a lot of love, so their ‘forever family’ provides unconditional love and security that have never known.

If you are interested in getting involved with Heart Gallery, tune in for the rest of the week for more of Barbara Schechter’s interview.  You can also visit www.heartgalleryofbroward.org or call or email Barbara directly.  Tel: 954-918-3008 or barbara@heartgalleryofbroward.org.