The title is startling isn’t it? I am physically sick with emotion sitting here looking at these kids on my computer screen in front of me. I am wiping away tears as I think about the possible scenarios for these kid’s future.
These children have no home, no family. It just breaks my heart. As a mother of 3 children, it horrifies me to think that my children could feel alone or like nobody wanted them and then I think how I was growing up and couldn’t imagine not having my mom and dad. Yet here in these pictures they seem happy, innocent, carefree. This is where my job becomes very rewarding to me. I pulled up to the National Seashore and met Peggy Custred, with First Families Network of Pensacola (you can visit their page here and their FB page here). She gave me a brief summary of the kids I was going to be shooting. Josh 15, Devon 12 and Natalie 10. I was thinking about myself at that age and what I was doing at that time in my life. And it broke my heart to think of what these children are missing out on. Pretty shortly after I arrived, a white van pulled into the parking lot with them and their case worker behind the wheel. I could see their faces through the window as they parked their car. They looked sad. They had just gotten back from court and it had apparently not been good. They got out and walked with their heads down and Josh the oldest one looked up and made eye contact sorta nodding his head hello, very shy but polite. Devon was quiet with his hands in his pockets and Natalie had a pout with her arms crossed and would not look at me. I could imagine the news they had just gotten so it was my new mission to try and make them forget about it. I cracked some joke on how exciting getting their photos done was going to be. You know how all tweens loooove to get their photos made. yeah right… haha. I started leading them to where we were going to shoot. You can tell the older two were excited to explore and immediately began to relax. I asked them questions about themselves like how old they were, what grade they were in etc. They seemed like they were easy going and willing participants which is rare for them 1. being boys 2. given their age. I was excited at this point. Now, Natalie… I had to work on sweet Natalie. I finally got some smiles out of her when I told her I’d have to make her case worker lay on the dirt for her pictures. That was pretty silly. From there she slowly started coming out of her shell. When I posed them together you could tell that they were “home”. Natalie ADORES her brothers and latched onto them. They are so affectionate and seem to find comfort in one another. I later found out that Natalie doesn’t stay with them. She is in a different home than her brothers. Makes sense now on how she was clinging to them at the shoot. What an honor it was for me to meet them. Such a little gesture for HUGE rewards. Humbling experience.
I’m glad that I could at least even for 15 minutes make them smile and forget everything even just for a moment. The fact that somebody might see these images and be inspired by their story gives me chill bumps. Oh and let’s not forget to mention how ADORABLE and ridiculously good looking they are!!!
Here is a little bit of heart breaking information I received from Peggy Custred on facts about children up for adoption in our area:
“As you know FamiliesFirst Network covers the 4 counties of the Panhandle. We have approximately 1200 children who are receiving services from us. About 1/3 of these kids are still living at home. Another 1/3 have been removed from the homes and placed with relatives and another 1/3 are in foster care. (Unfortunately we are so short on foster homes many of our children have to be placed in foster homes or group homes outside of this area, around the state. This is a huge crisis we are having right now.). Most children in foster care will eventually go home. Most of those who can never return home will be referred for adoption. (A few older kids will remain in our Independent Living program.) Most of the kids referred to us for adoption will be adopted by their foster parents or relatives. However at any one time we usually have around 50 children who are “free” for adoption but who have no identified families. These are the children for whom I am recruiting and whose pictures we take. All of these waiting children are older. Many are teenagers who know they still need a family that lasts a life time. Several are members of sibling groups like the Joshua, Devin and Natalie whom you photographed the other day. We just got a sibling group of 5 kids and have several groups of 4 coming to us so we have a huge need for families who want siblings. We are very committed to keeping siblings together for adoption and in the past placed a group of 7 sisters in one adoptive family. We have three teen moms who want to be adopted with their babies. We have two children with significant medical challenges. We have several kids who have mental health challenges. We have several kids who are involved in the juvenile delinquency system. All these kids are in need of a family who can understand they have been victims of abuse or neglect and that they are survivors. Some are just more resilient than others.” …
The children are posted on FFN web site as well as on the Department of Children and Families Explore Adoption.
First Families Network – Adoption – http://www.baptisthealthcare.com/FamiliesFirstNetwork/Adoption.aspx
First Families Network – Foster Parenting – http://www.familiesfirstnetwork.org/FamiliesFirstNetwork/FosterCare.aspx
First Families Network – Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/FamiliesFirstNetwork