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Heart Gallery photos shows need for adoption in Kentucky

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By Philip Bruce

It does not take a magic ring or being from another planet to be a hero.  It does not take a mind-blowing, mystical experience to be a saint.  All it really takes is love, compassion and a commitment to a child’s future.

Adoptive parents Michael and Tracy Crossfield may not consider themselves heroes to their two adopted boys Tallas, 7, and Samuel, 6, – but they know their lives are blessed. 

“I can’t remember what our life was like before the boys,” said Michael Crossfield.  “We were boring before.”  

Growing up in large families with many older cousins and siblings, the Crossfields wanted to be more settled and mature before taking on the responsibility of raising children. 

Tracy said she was interested in adoption very early. To her, giving birth to her own children was not as important as the loving and nurturing she could provide them.

Since adopting the boys, the Crossfields said their lives have truly been enriched. Not just because they now go to the zoo, the beach or other family outings, they said there is something priceless about listening to a couple of boys excited about their superhero watches or singing the theme song to a cartoon show.  

Yet, believe it or not, children like those the Crossfields have adopted are considered difficult to place. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has a different label – special needs, and there are as many different types of special needs as there are children.

“Due to whatever the situation is, they may just have different needs,” said Tracy.

This can include being older or having brothers and sisters that need to stay together. A majority of the children have emotional scars of some degree from being abused, neglected or abandoned and they need a special family to help them heal. Other children may have educational needs which require special education services or physical problems that may require special equipment, medical, or dietary services.

To help place these children  in loving, stable homes, family services utilizes unique program called the Heart Gallery.

The Heart Gallery was founded by Diane Granito, CYFD Statewide Special Events Coordinator, at the suggestion of Santa  Fe photographer, Cathy Maier Callanan, as a means of encouraging adoption by putting a face and personality on the state’s foster child population.  Their vision resulted in collaboration between CYFD and dozens of the state’s most talented photographers.  The first Heart Gallery exhibit premiered in March 2001 at the Gerald Peters Gallery.  It drew a crowd of over 1200 people who were inspired by the stirring, powerful portraits of more than four dozen of New Mexico’s adoptable foster children.

Spencer County residents interested in adopting a special needs child can currently see photographs of Kentucky’s foster children, from 17 different counties, available for adoption at Citizens Union Bank in Taylorsville through Friday. After this week, the Heart Gallery can be seen at:

• Spencer Christian Church, March 22

• Froman W.T. Drug Company, March 23-27

• All Saints Catholic Church, March 29

While the Crossfields said their boys are no different than any other kids, some families choose to open their homes to children with greater needs.  Carl and Judy Emmons have fostered a number of different children classified as medically-fragile.  

Of the approximately 7,000 currently on the role in the foster care system of Kentucky, about 150 are listed as medically-fragile.  These children can suffer from mild conditions like asthma to terminal conditions like leukemia. Last year, the Emmons lost one of their children.

Each child that comes into their home becomes one of theirs. After a more traditional adoption several years ago, the Emmons decided to prevent their daughter from being an only child by opening their home as foster parents. These parents provide homes for children in transition, or children whose birth parents are temporarily unable to care for them.  They have had as many as four other foster children, along with their daughter, in the house at once.  They, too, will take everyone with them on vacation or family outings, regardless of the medical challenges.

“I absolutely love it,” Judy Emmons said. “Apparently, it’s what God has called me to do.”

“My wife loves the babies,” says Carl Emmons, although he added that seems to cover a wide range of ages. “The need is so great.”

In a 22-county area that includes Spencer County, there are only 15 families that are certified to accept the medically-fragile foster children.  Carl said that they can open their home due to his retired status and the relative freedom of their schedules.   

While some would see that as an opportunity to enjoy more leisure or travel, to Carl the situation is clear.  

“Doesn’t make sense not to (be foster parents),” he said.

For further information on the Heart Gallery, or to request that the Heart Gallery  appear at a corporation, church, or special event, please call Trish Woods @ 502-647-9245. To get more information about the Special Needs Adoption Program call: 1-800-928-4303 or visit  http://chfs.ky.gov/snap.