Finding Kids Homes, One Photo at a Time

Mary has the dreams and hobbies of a typical 12-year-old.

She longs to be a famous dancer with her own private limo and hairstylist, loves to read and write in her journal and likes to play with children her age.

But Mary, until recently, was missing one thing many of her peers often take for granted: a family.

Included in the Children's Trust Miami Heart Gallery, a photography exhibit opening Saturday depicting children who are up for adoption, Mary was lucky enough to draw the attention of a local couple who are interested in adopting her.

"My husband and I had been looking to adopt for two years, and then we saw Mary," Cindy Horowitz, 48, told the Miami Herald. They declined to be interviewed by

Horowitz told the Herald that something about Mary's photograph just clicked with her.

"We knew it was right," said Horowitz.

Finding Children Families, One Photo at a Time

The Miami Children's Trust hopes that prospective families like the Horowitzes will be moved by the photographs of the children -- all of whom are either currently in foster care or group homes.

More than 100 cities around the country have held similar exhibits since the first one launched in Santa Fe, N.M. in 2001, and all have seen great success, especially with the adoption of older children who are typically the hardest to place with families.

"It's been proved around the country that this is something that really helps adopt older children," said Emily Cardenas, senior communications manager at Children's Trust of Miami-Dade, which sponsors the exhibit.

"The photographs work," Cardenas said. "People fall in love with faces of children when they're photographed beautifully and that's what is important when it comes to adoption recruitment."

As many as 70 children, including 12 groups of siblings, are featured in 48 portraits all shot by professional photographers.

Nigel Barker, noted fashion photographer known for his role on "America's Next Top Model," told that he was excited to give these children "one day off from not having fun."

"You're dealing with children who don't smile that often and don't have that much reason to smile," said Barker. But a sad photograph isn't the right one to take "because psychologically, if you're someone looking to adopt you're going to look for a child who is a ray of light."

Barker, who photographed eight children for the exhibit, said that three sisters he worked with captured his attention almost immediately.

"They were the most adorable, caring and charming girls," said Barker. "They didn't want to split up from one another."

"I tried to get photographs of them that would be endearing and hopefully make people say 'I'd love to have these kids in my life,'" said Barker.

Another brother and sister duo stuck in Barker's mind, too.

"Most brothers and sisters want nothing to do with each other, but these two were just adorable," recalled Barker. "They were inseparable."

"I made them tickle each other, and they were having so much fun and are just such loving and caring kids," said Barker, who spent the day with the children in a garden in Miami.

Cardenas said that she hopes the photographs will remind those considering adoption that these children, while a bit older than the typical adoptee, need love just the same.

"A lot of folks are reluctant and think these kids are scarred or they're emotionally traumatized," said Cardenas. "But if you meet these children, you'll see how resilient they are and how much hope they have."

"These kids could be anything if they just had some love and attention and a permanent home," she said.

For more information about adopting children featured in The Children's Trust Miami Heart Gallery, click here.