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Heart Gallery Features Foster Kids Seeking Forever Homes

By Dawn Paulson, Family Coach Supervisor

Who do you call when making a major life decision? Who do you spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with? Who do you call to celebrate milestones in life with? For most people it is family. For children in foster care who are waiting for an adoptive family, it is no one.

In the state of Alaska there are over 150 children in foster care whose parental rights have been terminated and they are waiting for an adoptive family to choose them. Without an adoptive family, these children will age out of the system and be on their own.

The statistics for aged out foster youth are staggering: only 50 percent will graduate high school, 40 percent will experience homelessness, 30 percent will be incarcerated and 25 percent will report substance use and abuse. The Heart Gallery of Alaska is the only recruiting of its kind in the state of Alaska for these youth.

The Heart Gallery of Alaska utilizes the power of media to capture the individuality of children waiting in foster care in order to advocate for their adoption. Each child listed on the Heart Gallery of Alaska has chosen to be featured and is legally available for adoption.

This gallery does not show every child awaiting a home, but serves as a compelling representation of the many Alaskan children who are looking for forever families. Through the Heart Gallery of Alaska, a loving family can inquire and learn more about children awaiting adoption, and children featured on the gallery are encouraged to express what they are looking for in a forever family.

Beacon Hill operates the Heart Gallery of Alaska and is a privately funded nonprofit based in Anchorage and operating across the state. They work with professional volunteer media teams to showcase Alaska’s beautiful children. Because of this, many of these children have and will find permanent, loving homes.

In 2017, the first full year of Heart Gallery of Alaska, 30 children had chosen to be on the gallery, six were adopted, one found a legal guardian, 14 were matched with potential pre-adoptive families, and two aged out of foster care.

So far in 2018, there are 39 children listed on the gallery with 24 of them matched with potential pre-adoptive families and five finalized adoptions! An exciting victory is a sibling set of five who were listed on the Heart Gallery in December 2017 and were matched with a family March 2018 and continue to do well! Heart Gallery of Alaska works at finding children forever families!

Beacon Hill’s Heart Gallery of Alaska was selected from 2,000 nonprofits from across the country as one of the top 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist. A 10-day voting period in August brought a fierce competition with supporters from across Alaska and the country participating by voting daily. The top 40 winners of $25,000 will be announced September 25.

Dawn Paulson Family Coach Supervisor

Dawn Paulson, Family Coach Supervisor

The CrossFit community is rallying around the Heart Gallery of Alaska by holding an upcoming event: The Reliance Games. CrossFit Grizzly at the MTA Sports Center is hosting a CrossFit competition event to raise funds for the Heart Gallery of Alaska during Adoption Awareness Month. The event will be held November 11 at the MTA Sports Center and they have an exciting goal of raising $50,000. Check out the Facebook event, or register as a volunteer or competitor.

View the children on the Heart Gallery at www.heartgalleryak.com.

“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”

– National Adoption Center

Single Mom Facing Emergency Surgery Finds Support, Safe Place for Children

Earlier this year, Safe Families for Children Alaska received a call from a single mother with two young girls. Mom explained that she needed to have an emergency surgery that would render her incapable of normal movement for a few weeks. Her girls, who are used to being picked up and crawling all over their mom, would be unable to receive the attention and care they needed during her recovery.

Isolated and unsupported, mom had no one safe in her life to entrust her girls to. She also knew that if she were unable to find a safe place for her girls before surgery, she would have to place them in foster care. Fortunately, before that happened, a local church referred mom to Safe Families for Children Alaska, a new program offered through the nonprofit Beacon Hill.

Arrangements were made for the girls to stay with a certified volunteer host family whose children were close to the same age and attend the same school as the girls do. During her recovery, mom was able to video chat and talk on the phone with her children frequently.

The host family worked tirelessly to make the girls feel comfortable and at home, emphasizing the fact that these “extended sleepovers” were giving their mom time to recover and as soon as she was all healed and ready to go, they would be on their way back home.

During the placement, the host family connected mom with a support system though their mutual school connections and a local church. By the time the placement ended with Safe Families for Children, mom felt connected and cared for, and understood that she now has a network of people to call if anything like this were to happen again.

Thanks to Alaska Children’s Trust’s support of Beacon Hill and Safe Families for Children Alaska in 2016, these two young children and 19 others have avoided the trauma of unnecessarily entering the foster care system. Beacon Hill’s board and staff members are unbelievably grateful for the lifelong impact Alaska Children’s Trust has had on Alaska’s vulnerable families in 2016.

Find more stories like this in the Alaska Children’s Trust 2016 community report – coming soon!