The Heart Gallery originated in 2001 by the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) as a way to raise awareness about children who are available for adoption in New Mexico. Ellie Ortiz, Supervisor of the Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment Team, created and developed the concept. She was on a mission to improve child photos that appeared in CYFD’s waiting child magazine and on the web. Ellie worked through personal contacts to find photographers in Santa Fe who would be willing to take creative photos. This is when it occurred to her that a gallery show would fit in perfectly with the town’s artistic reputation. The exhibit was created and gave CYFD and the children a chance to reach out to prospective adoptive parents, and to educate the community about foster care and adoption.
Since it’s inception, the Heart Gallery has taken the nation by storm. Heart Galleries have been organized by over 30 states and participation continues to grow. There has been an overwhelming response by national media such as the Today Show, MSNBC, Parade and People Magazines. Journalists have concentrated on the uniqueness of the project, the children and their needs, and how readers and viewers can help. As a result, many family welfare agencies have seen a significant increase in adoption and awareness in their states.