Governor Susana Martinez Helps Find “Forever Families” for CYFD Foster Kids
SANTA FE -- Governor Susana Martinez today asked New Mexicans to consider adopting New Mexico foster children at the unveiling of the Governor’s Heart Gallery in the lobby of the Governor’s office at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. The Gallery features portraits of Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) foster children who are freed for adoption and waiting to find their ‘Forever Families’.
“The greatest gift we can give to a child is a caring, stable, and loving home,” says Martinez. “The Heart Gallery is a wonderful project that helps to pair foster children with families that will provide the support they need. I am hopeful that the Heart Gallery will continue to reach out to prospective adoptive families so we can continue to provide put New Mexico’s foster children in positive and nurturing environments.”
CYFD Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines leads New Mexico’s child welfare agency and says one of their top goals is to achieve permanency for kids in state custody. That means achieving a permanent home for children who have come into state custody because of parental abuse or neglect. The permanent home can be reunification with a child’s biological family, or termination of parental rights, leading to adoption.
On any given night in New Mexico, as many as 2,000 New Mexico kids need a safe and healing temporary home. About 250 of those children are available for adoption through CYFD.
“The last thing we want is for children to stay in foster care forever,” says Deines. “Our Heart Gallery, including the Governor’s Heart Gallery we’re presenting today, is a part of our state-wide efforts to find ‘Forever Families’ for our kids. This is particularly true with older children, who are harder to place but are just as deserving of a permanent and loving family.”
Foster care is recognized as a temporary service. Children are only removed and placed out of home if reasonable efforts to keep them safe at home are unsuccessful. From the first day in foster care, efforts begin to return children home or help them find another permanent family. Older children and teenagers are particularly challenging to place permanently. Deines says her agency works hard to place older kids, and that was the genesis of the Heart Gallery project.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” says Deines, but finding ‘Forever Families’ for children in foster care, regardless of how old they are, is a driving goal for New Mexico’s child welfare professionals.”
Cabinet Secretary Veronica Gonzales and the Cultural Affairs Department curate the galleries in the Governor’s office. Her staff led the efforts to get the photographic artwork displayed properly.
“The best art has an emotional impact and moves the viewer,” says Gonzales. “The Heart Gallery is one that meets that criteria; it’s art with a very specific purpose. These are beautiful images of amazing kids looking for a ‘Forever Family.’ We were honored to curate this gallery in the Governor’s lobby and look forward to switching out these images many times over as the foster kids featured here are adopted.”
“The Children, Youth and Families Department and Secretary Deines fight for the most defenseless among us,” added Governor Martinez. “These are kids who instead of finding love and protection in the shelter of their home, lived in fear of the very people responsible for taking care of them. The Heart Gallery has proven to be an exceptional tool, helping CYFD match older kids with ‘Forever Families.’”
The Governor’s Heart Gallery features five CYFD foster children up for adoption. The images will be swapped out as children are adopted. The gallery also features four success stories: images of children who were adopted in large part because of being featured by the Heart Gallery.
The Heart Gallery of New Mexico is a CYFD program created in 2001 to raise awareness about older foster children and sibling groups in protective custody who are ready for adoption. Talented photographers donate their time to create compelling and unique portraits of the children, which appear in exhibits across the state as well as in the online Heart Gallery on the CYFD website, www.cyfd.org. The Heart Gallery also has dozens of media partners throughout the state, including the Albuquerque Journal, who feature CYFD foster children each week.
Because of extensive national and international media coverage, the Heart Gallery of New Mexico has become a model for Heart Galleries in nearly every state and Canada. Together these programs are responsible for placing nearly 5,000 children with permanent families each year.
Faye Mathey, who was adopted by her Heart Gallery photographer Jackie Mathey, played an original musical composition for reception guests.
“The Heart Gallery gives kids like me opportunities to have a better life and better future,” said Faye. “I love the family I have right now…they have given me more than I ever dared dream.” Her proud mother Jackie added, “The fact that Faye has an amazing gift to share with the world should be no surprise, as we believe all children do. Many children receive love and support from a ‘forever family’ and the community around them, as a direct result of the Heart Gallery.”