Foster children looking for permanent homes are featured in a new photo exhibit in Times Square, and to coincide with Pride Month, the focus is on the kids in that group who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Older children and young adults in the foster care system are hoping to make a connection. The hope is that they will have a parent or family before they "age" out of the system at 21.
"They're expected to go out there and be on their own, you know, manage by themselves," said Mary Keane, a senior family permanency advocate. "And even when they can successfully, they have an emotional void."
Keane has adopted 13 children herself. She works for Brooklyn-based "You Gotta Believe," which has teamed up with Heart Gallery NYC for a photo exhibit at the Times Square Museum and Visitors Center. It features 36 foster children looking for permanent homes. Twelve of them identify themselves as LGBT.
Heart Gallery NYC worked with top photographers to raise awareness about foster kids in need of a family.
"When you look at these photos, you can see it brings out their inner spirit. It really shows the enthusiasm," said Harry Coghlan, a volunteer board member with Heart Gallery NYC. "You can look at them, you can see their personalities just bursting through the photographs."
The photos can also be seen on some of the giant video screens in Times Square, all part of spreading the word.
Keane said bringing foster kids together with families can be more of a challenge with LGBT youth, as many come from broken adoptions.
"They were adopted as babies. They grow up as teenagers. They identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and the adoptive parents say, 'I'm sorry, that's not what I bargained for,' and they put them back in the system," she said.
The project has been a unique experience for the young people featured in the photos.
"Oh my God, it was amazing. Like, I love it," said Ramone Boland, who lives in foster care. "When they first told me, I was super excited to do it because I love doing stuff like this."
"It's very exciting," said Donique Earl, who lives in foster care. "I feel, like, popular, famous. It's really cool."
The photos will be on display in Times Square through June 20. The exhibit will also be traveling around the area to different churches through the summer.
For more information, go to heartgallerynyc.org or yougottabelieve.org.