It is a beautiful Saturday in September. We’re at a gorgeous resort in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Around me it’s a flurry of controlled chaos and activity. Stylists cut and comb hair, while photographers munch on snacks, waiting for their next personality to finish primping. There is excitement in the air. Fashion shoot? Calendar models? Not even close. This photo shoot features children and youth, all in need of an adoptive home. It is a photo shoot for the Children’s Heart Gallery.
The Children’s Heart Gallery, an online and traveling display, features Arizona children who are free for adoption with no identified placement. Children come into foster care through no fault of their own. But just the fact that they have been removed from everything familiar, no matter now dysfunctional, is traumatic. Children in foster care may have experienced things that are incomprehensible to those not involved in the system. When children and youth do not have the words to express their feelings, their pain comes out in their actions. Sometimes thoughtless adults label them as unadoptable. The Children’s Heart Gallery team sees it differently. No child is unadoptable; it is just a matter of finding the right parent.
This is a community effort. Every time there is a photo shoot, a business, typically a resort or country club, donates the use of their grounds as the backdrop for the photos as well as rooms for the kids to get ready. Photographers give up a Saturday — a lucrative day as many are wedding photographers —donating their time and talents. Hairdressers also give up Saturday salon profits; exchanging their daily wages and tips for the joy of seeing the self-esteem rise in youth who have their hair professionally styled. Additional community partnerships provide food and beverages for everyone. Photo shoots wouldn’t happen without such wonderful volunteers. Over 300 youth and sibling groups have been photographed in the past three years.
Photo shoot days can be long and intense but they are so rewarding! It’s not uncommon to have 30 youth come to have their pictures taken. Typically, out of the roughly 45 adults working an event, only five are DCS staff. Everyone else is a volunteer — the hair stylists, the photographers, the people who go out in teams of two to shuttle the kiddos to and from the resort.
Building relationships with our volunteers happens through word-of-mouth referrals. Someone has a friend who’s a photographer; at the next photo shoot they’ve brought other friends. Some of the folks are parents who are certified to adopt; by helping at the photo shoot they get to know the youth without the awkwardness of a “first date” experience. Others volunteer simply to give back to the community at large.
If you would like to volunteer your time or resources at an upcoming Children’s Heart Gallery photo shoot, please visit the Children’s Heart Gallery Volunteer Page to begin the process.
Roxann L. Miller is the Home Recruitment Marketing and Communication Specialist
Department of Child Safety
MEET BRAYDEN: https://vimeo.com/98765635
Brayden is a social guy who loves to meet new people.
He has a love for cars, and hopes to be a mechanic when he gets older. For now, Brayden just wants to learn where to start when it comes to fixing cars.
Brayden’s hobbies include playing basketball, video games and working with technology. Once Brayden was able to take apart an MP3 player and a laptop to see their inner-workings.
Brayden says he would like his forever family to be talkative and enjoy low-key activities at home. He also hopes his forever family will be open in allowing him to maintain contact with his brother. Brayden would like to have a sibling and a dog in his forever family.
Brayden was born in 2000.
FOR MORE KIDS THAT ARE ADOPTABLE: https://fosterarizona.org/meet-the-kids/