Anne Jordan was a contributing editor to GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wandering around Denver International Airport during a 2 1/2 hour layover, I came across an interesting exhibit in the corridors of Concourse A: a photo gallery of the 50 children who have spent the most time in Colorado's foster-care system while waiting to be adopted.
The Colorado Department of Human Service's first annual "Heart Gallery" is modeled after a program started in 2001 by New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department. Professional photographers donate their time and talent to "capture the spirit" of kids who are hard to place because of their age (most are between 10 and 15) or the fact that they are part of a sibling group.
In the words of one photographer who volunteered his services: "Photographs help us to relate to things we might not be able to understand. They can make us desire, feel, emphasize. Most importantly, they can inspire some action."
It turns out Colorado is just one of 42 states that have held or are planning Heart Gallery openings. Finding permanent placements for these children is a tough task, so any additional public exposure seems like a good thing. But even as I felt the emotional tug these pictures are intended to create, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the right market for the message. Travelers waiting for a connecting flight may have the time to look at the portraits and read about the kids, it's local residents, though, who might seriously consider adopting a child from Adams County--but they're not likely to linger a moment longer than necessary at the airport.
So it was encouraging to learn that DIA was only one stop on the exhibit's year-long tour around Denver, which includes the arts district, a library, the county courthouse, the state capitol and several shopping malls. Those venues are much more likely to generate a response among local residents. The rest of us can be on the lookout for a Heart Gallery closer to home.
photos by Anne Jordan
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.