Valentine’s Day is a day for love, but for children in foster care, they’re just looking for a loving forever home.
A new gallery was constructed in the hopes of giving them that chance.
The state Department of Children and Families has set up the Heart Gallery inside Milford’s Connecticut Post Mall.
Each photo and painting tells a story about a boy or a girl who are looking to one day find that forever family.
The gallery, which right now contains 27 pictures, with more on the way, is used to increase awareness and interest in adoption.
“This wasn’t accessible for us, for myself when I was in the system, so this is amazing to have this,” said Sheena Infante-Davis, of Hamden.
She was 15 when she found her forever home, and now 24, and in school, she said she hopes of one day turning her passion of baking into a profession.
On this Valentine’s day, the sweetest treat would be to see the teenagers who are in the same situation she was once in, find a family they are looking for.
“We would have never met our kids if the Heart Gallery didn’t exist,” said Ellen Leffingwell, of Norwich.
Twelve years ago, Leffingwell started volunteering her talents as a photographer to take pictures of kids looking to be adopted.
“One day we photographed these great twins, who were 9-and-a-half years old and had an instant connection with them, fell in love with them, and needed an excuse to have a second photo shoot so we could get to know them a little bit more. The social worker noticed a spark between us and it kind of snowballed,” Leffingwell said.
It’s not just the photos and a short biography of each child. The Heart Gallery is also interactive.
You download the ‘Live Portrait’ app, you bring it over to the photos of the kids, and you get to hear from them, themselves.
“With their own voices, will tell, the people who are watching, what they want in a family. Our tag line is ‘We all have love to give,’ and we’re hoping today on valentine’s day, we’ll find people who are interested,” said Jacqueline Ford, of the Department of Children and Families.
Infante-Davis said she found that love, and is hopeful others will as well.
“As a kid in the system, you think you don’t have anybody and you want that forever family, you want to be loved on, you want to be cared for, you want to be a part of something much bigger than yourself, so just to have a forever family and that security and guidance, makes feel more empowered within yourself,” Infante-Davis said.
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