Annual Utah Heart Gallery puts face on need for families willing to adopt

SALT LAKE CITY -- Every child deserves to grow up with a loving family, which is why the Utah Adoption Exchange works tirelessly to find permanent homes for foster children.

The Utah State Capitol hosted the 12th annual Utah Heart Gallery, which featured the portraits and stories of children looking for a permanent family.

“We match them with local photographers to take a portrait-quality image of them that then we use for recruitment, but then we also have the gallery travel around the state of Utah for an entire year,” said Kathy Searle, the Director of Programs at the Utah Adoption Exchange.

According to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, 180 children are currently in foster care and waiting to be adopted.

“Once a child is over the age of nine, the chances of them being adopted are a lot less, and so we primarily work with kids over the age of nine and sibling groups,” Searle said.

In the past 12 years, 402 children have participated in the Utah Heart Gallery, and more than half of them have found a permanent home.

Families who have adopted through the program in the past shared their stories this week, encouraging others to do the same.

“We’re hoping that through the images that have been created by the portraits, that people will begin to realize that these kids are just like their own kids, just like kids in the neighborhood,” Searle said.

For the next year the portraits will travel across the state, bringing awareness to the foster children who need a home.

For more on the Utah Heart Gallery, click here.