PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER | Waiting for adoption

Posted on Apr 1, 2005 in Published Work

Waiting for adoption, their hearts on display Children in foster care get professional portraits

Philadelphia InquirerNine-year-old Christopher climbed into a big oak tree next to the Clement T. Branch Village on Ferry Avenue in Camden, steadied himself, then turned up his chin and smiled for the most important photo of his life.

Freelance photographer Norman Y. Lono stood a few feet away, snapping pictures with a digital camera.

“I know knock-knock jokes,” Christopher offered as he shifted in the tree. “Knock, knock,” he began.

Christopher’s 20-minute photo session Wednesday could mean the difference between a life in foster care and life with a family who adopts him. He is one of 300 foster children in New Jersey who are available for adoption but have no prospects.

Next month, photos of Christopher and other children will be displayed as part of the Heart Gallery of New Jersey, a grassroots project that pairs professional photographers with children waiting for adoption.

The goal is to replace the grainy snapshots taken by the state Division of Youth and Family Services with photographs that show prospective adoptive parents the children’s true personalities. Photographs feature them in a variety of activities, such as jumping on a trampoline, wiggling a hula hoop, or climbing on a fire truck.

The Heart Gallery then displays the pictures in public venues.

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