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Heart Gallery Uses Photos To Find Children Families

Kathy Searle
The Heart Gallery is in its 10th year.

Finding homes for children who need to be adopted can be difficult, especially if they are older or have siblings; however, one group is trying to get them home, one photo at a time.

The Utah Heart Gallery kicked off its tenth year Wednesday. The gallery partners kids with volunteer photographers and displays the portraits at the state Capitol, said Adoption Exchange of Utah Director of Programs Kathy Searle.

“It’s just been a really great opportunity for children who never have really had, other than a school photo taken of them, to have a really nice portrait that they can feel good about and can feel confident about,” Searle said.

This year’s gallery includes 35 portraits of 41 children, including some sibling groups. Searle said most of the children who participate are over the age of eight, have run out of options for finding a family and have been in the system for years.

“The children that participate in Heart Gallery aren’t the children that have other options or that we can put a picture on a website and then within a few days we have a number of inquiries and opportunities for them to have a family,” Searle said.

Over the years, the Utah Heart Gallery has featured portraits of 333 children, 186 of whom have found homes.

Searle said the portraits are not only used during the event, but also posted on adoption websites to help the kids find a loving family.

“The photographers are very skilled at what they do… They understand that the purpose of Heart Gallery is to bring out the personality of the child and to capture the spirit that’s in there that sometimes doesn’t come out because the child doesn’t feel safe and protected and has experienced a lot of trauma,” Searle said. “They work to get to know the child and do the photo shoot; it’s a pretty amazing experience.”

The photos will be featured at the Capitol’s rotunda through Nov. 12, after that they will move to the Department of Human Services building.