Foster children photographed for state-wide gallery

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Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 9:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Monday, seven volunteers from Benedict College used the power of photography to help foster kids find forever homes at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.

The field trip, joined by personnel from the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Department of Children’s Advocacy (DCA), was spearheaded by the South Carolina Heart Gallery.

“During the pandemic, the heart gallery kind of seized because you know the contact with the caseworkers and the children. So, we’re… starting it back up and getting these public photoshoots out,” said Christina Grant, Program Coordinator for the S.C. Heart Gallery.

Since 2005, the Heart Gallery has been taking portraits and pushing biographies on South Carolina foster children in need of forever homes. The program is an extension of the DCA.

DSS told WIS that 3,862 children currently sit in foster care. This number is the lowest year-to-date total of kids in state custody since at least 2018. While the number is down, DSS said they still need your help.

“We really need families. We would like for families to get in contact with [DSS] or the Heart Gallery. And we can submit those referrals for the kiddos that we’re looking for forever homes for,” said Alexis Conrad, Adoption Supervisor for DSS.

According to DSS, only 166 children within their custody are “legally free.” In other words, the children whose parental rights have been terminated and are legally up for adoption.

Grant told WIS that Monday’s photoshoot was their largest effort since the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 26 foster children were photographed for the gallery’s website.

The photographs were carried out by six student volunteers from Benedict College, one professor, and two professional photographers.

Grant expects at least six more group photoshoots and up to ten porch photoshoots. According to the program coordinator, porch photoshoots are home visits reserved for medically fragile children.

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