Photographers Capture Spirit of Kids in Need of Homes

One of the unforgettable photographs that inspired an adoption was taken for the Santa Fe Heart Gallery by Debbie Fleming Caffery. It is a study of three sisters named Vicky, Jannae and Vanessa who dressed up for the picture in fairy tale princess costumes. At the time, in 2001, the girls were 9, 8, and 5 years old and had already lived in seven different foster care homes.

Drew and Melinda Somerville, who had raised six children of their own, immediately responded to it.

"It wasn't just a face on a poster or face in a photograph," said Drew Somerville. "These were children. These were human beings. They were people that you could relate to and emotionally tie to with that photograph."

And after meeting the girls, the Sommervilles adopted them. No one pretends it's a simple process.

"Some of the children need a little more counseling, a little more support," said Granito. "And the children have different behavioral issues that are discussed during training that [parents] are provided free of cost. when they adopt through a state agency like ours [The New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department]. But all we want is someone who is willing to be dedicated to a child, to take the support that we offer to help the child settle in and just give the child a loving home."

"They were coming into a house where they were expected to do things, and had structure," said Melinda Somerville. "They had basically been just left on their own. That's been a hard adjustment for them, and we do have struggles with that."

But after more than three years, everyone seems to have made the adjustment. The Somerville daughter who still is young enough to remain at home, 11-year-old Allison, also had encouraged the adoption, hoping for more playmates. And Vicky, Jannae and Vanessa know they will finally come home to the same place every day after school, and that they can think about the future. They now have a family who'll watch them graduate from school, get a first job and get married.

Before, said Jannae, "I didn't really have any dreams." Now she hopes to become a teacher. "When I went to the Heart Gallery, I met my parents."

Nationwide, nearly 130,000 of the half-million foster children are available for adoption. There is a term for those who never find a family. It's called "aging out." Children who aren't adopted by the age of 18 are simply released into the world, to do the best they can.

"I have seen children who are just waiting, very patiently," said Diane Granito. "I can say that they really are my heroes. … And I just really wish people would give them a chance."

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