Introducing our first Youth Ambassador, Jake!

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Jake points to his photo on the wall at the Adoptions Together office in Calverton.

Adoptions Together is very excited to announce our very first Youth Ambassador! Jake is ten years old, loves soccer, and was adopted as a baby. Now, he and his family have decided to sponsor the Heart Gallery to make sure that every child gets a chance at a loving forever family.

Can you introduce yourself and let us know a little about your family?

My name is Jake and I have three family members. Me and my dads.

How old are you?

I am 10 years old, almost 11.

Can you tell me a little bit about the Heart Gallery and what it does and what makes it important?

What makes the Heart Gallery important is that it helps pretty much all kids get adopted. People who have been having trouble getting adopted for a while, even kids as old as in their 20s, that just need a forever family to always go to and to have a loving, caring family.

You’re Adoptions Together’s first Youth Ambassador, that’s pretty cool! Can you tell me what does being an ambassador for adoption mean to you?

For me it means like I’m kind of having an honor, for two reasons. First part is, not a lot of people, especially people my age, get to be ambassadors whatsoever, and also, it’s an honor ‘cause I’m representing a really important thing. I’m really representing something that should be known pretty much the world, ‘cause it’s really important to know that there are kids out there that want to be adopted and need to be adopted, and if more people know about them, there are more people that might adopt those kids.

Why is it so important that all kids have an adoptive family?

‘Cause like… Let’s say someone has a birthday and they don’t have a forever home. Who is gonna celebrate that birthday with them, who is gonna be there to help them plan the birthday, who is gonna be there to support them for pretty much everything? No one, unless they have a forever family… Well some kids, like me, get adopted at a young age, then there are those that are struggling, and I feel that it is important that everyone has a loving, caring family.

It’s important to have somebody there for you as you grow up, and you have two great dads. Do you know what you’re thinking that you’d like to be when you grow up?

An inventor.

Why an inventor?

‘Cause they do great things and they get to invent cool stuff and they get to tamper with stuff, and try and find out how things work.

If there was a kid from the Heart Gallery was here, what would you want them to hear from you?

I would say that I hope that they got their family soon because everyone deserves to have a family.

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We asked Jake’s dads to join the conversation and tell us the story of how their family came to be.

Joe: I’m Joe, and this is Wes, and we adopted Jake… I guess it will be 11 years–

Jake: In 2005! Ten years ago. Ten years and nine months ago.

Joe: Ten years and nine months ago. We had come to Adoptions Together ‘cause we were looking at different agencies that would allow same-sex couples to adopt and there were very few of them. I think we went out to… Where’d we go out to?

Wes: Seattle.

Joe: Seattle! To meet with one agency, although their waiting time was a very long, long time. And I think that we did some research into agencies that would allow same-sex couples to adopt and we found that Adoptions Together was one of them, so we immediately came over and we met with Erica [Moltz] and we got the process started.

How long did it take, start to finish?

Joe: It was very short.

Wes: About ten months.

Jake: You guys weren’t married until 2010, though.

Joe: That’s when we could legally get married.

As a family you’ve decided to sponsor the Heart Gallery. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s important to you?

Wes: I think it’s important that people understand that there is a need for adoptive families out there, and I think that it’s important that people know about the opportunities there are and know about these children who are in need of a permanent family.

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I asked Jake if there was a child waiting on the Heart Gallery here what he would want to say to them. What would you want them to know?

Joe: I think they should know that there are children and people out there that care about them and that we are working to help them find their forever family. And I think that it’s important for them to not give up hope and keep remembering that there is a family for everybody and we just need to find that family and connect them to you. People tend to think that when children get older and they’re not babies anymore, that they don’t need an adoptive family. Everyone needs a family, whether you’re nine months or 19-years-old or 29 or 39, everybody needs a family. And I think that people who are willing to adopt a child who is a teenager, I think that they can provide great support to that person for the rest of their life.

Jake: You know, some people are even adopted at older ages, like 21 years old!

Joe: I think that’s great. It’d be wonderful for someone who hasn’t had a forever family for the first 19 years of their life, if they have it for the next 40, 50 years of their life, that’s really great.

Jake: But it’s not great that they didn’t have a forever family in the beginning…

Joe: The good thing is that we can still help them. I think that people tend to think about the role they can play in adoption and are maybe so focused on those first ten years, forgetting that people need that same level of love and support forever. Whether you’re adopting a newborn infant or you’re adopting a toddler or a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old, you’re coming in and being the parent that that child needs. If you look at the Heart Gallery stunning thing is how beautiful the children are. Looking at the Heart Gallery, it just calls to you how beautiful they are and how you can impact their lives.

The Heart Gallery works with volunteer photographers from the community. If you could, what would you want to say to the volunteers?

Wes: First of all, it’s thank you. Everyone can give back to the community in their own way, and these individuals have chosen to utilize their craft and artistry to publicize a great need within the community. I’m struck by how they have captured the personality of the kids in the photos. You get a sense of the craft that they bring to their work. I think that the journey for some of these kids can be difficult at times– they can have struggles, and can be dejected because of the time it has taken for them to be adopted as they go through the foster care system, but I think one of the things the photographers do is give them a ray of hope and show them that there are people out there that care about them. They may not know them, but they care about them and are working behind the scenes to make sure they find their permanent family.

We also partner with local Department of Social Services agencies and individual caseworkers who recommend their kids for the gallery. Sometimes social workers are a little hesitant to put their kids on the gallery. What would you say to them?

Wes: I come to this from a social work background myself… I’m sure there is extra work and they have a huge caseload and this is gonna take 10, 20, 30 more minutes of an already jam packed day, but the effect that they can have on a kid… Their duty is to serve the children, and they need to keep that in mind. This is a way to publicize and find families for these kids. Realizing that it is a little bit of extra work and they are juggling a lot already, sometimes in an environment that they may not feel supported in by the government institutions in which they work, I think it’s critical that they keep the idea in their heads that this provides an opportunity for the kids, and also, to your earlier point, gives their kids another sense of hope. Having a child who knows that there is an opportunity out there helps them in their own lives, knowing that they may be jumping from foster family to foster family.

Joe: I think we need to get more kids on to the Gallery and bring more attention to it. I think one of the best things about the Heart Gallery is that it is out in the public and people can it, and think about what the Gallery is trying to do. The more pictures we can get up, the more opportunities we can create, we increase the odds of a child being able to connect with a forever family.

Wes: It’s also not the kids who are on the gallery itself. The mere fact that the Gallery publicizes that there are kids who need forever families. Someone may see the Heart Gallery and contact the agency and find a connection with another child who is not on the gallery. It shares the ned with the public and bring it to the attention and might encourage someone to adopt or become a foster family, even if they do not have the place in their lives to become parents.

Joe: Or support the Heart Gallery. Some people might be able to make a financial donation to the Heart Gallery so that we can make more pictures of children available. Some people might be able to donate time. Some might be able to encourage adoption to someone in their own family looking to start a family.

When we first had a conversation about the Heart Gallery and you chose to make a pledge, we talked about how good it feels to be able to give back. If you were talking to another donor, how would you describe that?

Joe: It’s hard to describe it. And it’s an extremely emotional thing to discuss because your gift, your willingness to help, will allow someone to experience parenthood, to experience having a family, to experience all the joys that parenting brings… It’s a mission that we can all feel good about because we know what it is to be in a family, or what it is to not be in a family and have that need. So to someone looking to donate to Adoptions Together, I’d say “you’re giving someone the opportunity to participate in one of the greatest joys of life: to be able to have your own forever family.

What makes Adoptions Together special?

Joe: For us, getting involved in Adoptions Together has been something I thought about since the first thing Jake was born. I have to be honest, the moment that happened I felt “Blessed.”

Jake: Are you still sure it’s your blessing?

Joe: Every day. Through good days and bad days, every day. For me, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give back to Adoptions Together what they gave to me. What they gave to me us is a 24/7 gift. And it will be a gift for generations. I think about Jake’s children and grandchildren, and all that will exist   because of the dedicated folks at Adoptions Together. That’s so powerful.

Wes: To me it’s amazing how many people were involved and instrumental were involved in creating our family. I look at the Heart Gallery and I think it’s also important for the kids to know, that there are a lot of people they may never meet that have invested, time, money, energy into making sure that at some point, we can find the family that they are destined to have. I think from our perspective, being a small component of that chain of events is humbling. You know you are impacting someone, hopefully multiple peoples’ lives, in a very positive way and that impact will then have a chain reaction through generations. I think that just having the gallery in public spaces also has a force multiplier effect where it may not be that individual that sees the gallery who ultimately decides to adopt one of the children, but they may talk to someone, who talks to someone, who then is that forever family for one of those children. I’m cognizant of the fact that it can be very distressing for kids in these situations and any amount of hope that we can give them, and proof that there are efforts being made on their behalf, I think is immensely important for their psychological wellbeing.

You can join Jake, Joe and Wes in supporting the Heart Gallery and make a difference in the lives of children in foster care.

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