Currently, there are 5,000 children in the Louisiana Foster Care system with 640 youth in foster care available for adoption. Most of these Louisiana youth are 10-17 years old. Children who age out of foster care without being adopted leave care with no support and are more likely to become homeless, incarcerated, and/or trafficked. The goal of the HP Serve’s LOUISIANA HEART GALLERY is to facilitate the adoption of youth in care so that more children available for adoption in Louisiana are placed into loving forever families. Louisiana Heart Gallery’s website www.louisianaheartgallery.com and exhibit that travels throughout Louisiana has helped raise awareness and increase adoptions for these children. Along with our website and exhibit, we build community capacity in eight DCFS regions to ensure more youth are adopted. Currently, we cover Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette, and Covington Regions. Our goal for 2019 is to secure more regional directors for the remaining 4 DCFS regions: Thibodaux, Monroe, and Orleans.
Youth in foster care are either reunited with their relatives, adopted, or will age out. Up to 50% of youth who age out will be homeless within two years. As of June 19, 2017, there were 4,432 children in Louisiana foster care, with 21% being 13-17 years old. In 2016, 26 youth exited foster care at age 16-17 from EBR family court region, the second highest in the state, and 37 from all court systems in Baton Rouge area. Because foster care youth are disadvantaged in their ability to seek resources, from 25%-50% of these youths end up on the streets after aging out of the system. (Research varies on the percentage, but in all research foster care youth are disproportionately represented.) On July 1, 2013, the state ended all support to youth in care after their eighteenth birthday. Youth in care dread their eighteenth birthday because they go from total support to being on their own. Most do not have the education, life skills, or job preparedness to be self-sufficient.
LOUISIANA HEART GALLERY also does the following activities: - hosting the Adoption Exchange Workshop for regional and state DCFS workers so they can connect available youth to certified parents; - hosting various DCFS events as needed, workshops to improve the parenting skills of biological parents and parents who foster and adopt; - planning and conducting Parenting Connections Workshops, a supportive service that brings together parents who have fostered or adopted to support them as they adjust to the challenges of adopting youth who have experienced trauma; - adoption and foster care meetings; - organizing and conducting the annual Christmas Joy Project that provides each hard-to-place child with gifts of their choice on Christmas morning; and - facilitates the America’s Kids Belong Project (AKB), a partnership among AKB, HP Serve, and DCFS to make videos of youth in care who are available for adoption. To date, we have taken videos of 80 youth; and coordinates with volunteer professional photographers for still pictures of youth.
All donations help us continue to meet the needs of our youth of Louisiana. We believe the work of LOUISIANA HEART GALLERY makes a better Louisiana!