Heart Galleries of America Conference, Aug 25-28, New Mexico

A Family For Every Child
Local organization to lead the charge in innovative adoption programs

A Family for Every Child is a grass roots volunteer organization dedicated to finding loving permanent families for every waiting child. Our vision is to transform the way permanency is built into the lives of Oregon's foster children.

To meet this goal A Family for Every Child is building several programs. In November 2006, Christy Obie-Barrett introduced the Heart Gallery to Lane County.  Obie-Barrett is the mother of twelve children, nine of whom are adopted. She became aware of the success of Heart Galleries across the nation and decided to bring the concept to her hometown of Eugene. Professional photographers are recruited to take meaningful and compelling portraits of Oregon children hoping to be adopted. The portraits are on display in a variety of venues where prospective parents can learn more about these special children. The Heart Gallery of Lane County has inspired many people to begin the adoption process. As of August 2007, thirty out of thirty-three children originally featured in the Heart Gallery have found adoptive families. Home study rates for DHS quadrupled and the foster adopt classes jumped from 15 to 80 participants.

The Heart Gallery's close involvement in the community has resulted in our increased awareness of the needs of foster children and adoptive families. Since its conception, A Family for Every Child has started the following programs to address those needs maintaining the common goal of loving permanency for every child.

The Heart Gallery Mentor program was created because of the interest generated from Lane County Heart Gallery. The Heart Gallery featured three youth in foster care that were asking for mentors. Community members were inspired by this one exhibit; over twenty people came forward to help. The mentors work with the foster youth on independent living skills and help instill in them the independence, confidence, and everyday life skills they need to live a productive and successful life out on their own and to have a smooth transition out of the Foster Care system. Our desire is to create, engage and encourage everlasting, unconditional support and unbreakable bonds for the youth.

Alternatively, the new Family Building program offers mentor support to potential adoptive families. Community members who have previously adopted are matched with families just starting the process in order to create a network of support. This program was created in response to the 95% drop off rate from adoption orientation to finalization of an adoption. Many families want to adopt but never complete the process. We want to find out why and do what we can to help these families bring a child into their home. We will also offer information about other forms of support, resources and trainings that are available for the family.

Another innovative new program seeks to fill the need of foster children to find family connections. A Family for Every Child paid to bring nationally known trainer, Kevin Campbell, to present Family Finding Training in LaneCounty.  The Family Finding process gives trainees the knowledge and ability to find lost or disconnected family members of children in the Foster Care system.  In some cases this program connects the child to someone that wants to be a permanent figure in the child's life as an adoptive parent or in other ways offer support such as, family medical history, family reunions, family photos, and family connections.  This training is primarily for LaneCounty caseworkers and also includes CASA volunteers, A Family for Every Child volunteers and Heart Gallery of Lane County volunteers.

Subset programs have also emerged including outreach to the Faith based community.  A Family for Every Child saw potential in reaching out to a different church each month and bringing our Heart Gallery to their congregation.  Local churches are provided a DVD presentation, bulletin insert materials and a manned exhibit during Church Services.

A Family for Every Child strives to bring effective programs to Oregon that will support and advocate for children in Foster Care needing adoptive homes.  The goal is permanency; every child deserves to have a loving home where they feel safe.