I discovered something a few years ago that is both interesting and sad. I’m a professional photographer who for 10 years for the State of Illinois photographed children awaiting adoption. The photos were displayed in “The Heart Gallery of Illinois” to increase their chance for adoption. As an adoptive mom with a home full of four children, our family’s plate was full, but I liked helping these waiting children find forever families. These are adorable children, so I figured that a beautiful photo would get the job done. Except something unexpected happened; time-after-time the state called me back to photograph the same child, sometimes up to three years later. Children weren’t getting adopted.
Before I formed my family, I worked in human resources for law firms in Los Angeles and Chicago. Recruiting and hiring people was my specialty. I was a matchmaker. When a lawyer needed a special person for a particular job, I could find them.
The more I delved into the challenge of finding adoptive families for children, the more I learned that it takes more than a great photo to help a child find a forever family. I considered creating a matchmaking machine.
So many of the stories I discovered had sad similarities; one time when photographing a 15-year old boy for the second time he told me he wanted a family so he could play football. He was tired of changing schools. He wanted to leave his group home. He needed parents. Whatever the configuration, he wanted a family.
With his story weighing heavily on me I left on a road trip with a friend and our daughters to visit colleges. This was the last of four such trips, and it was my finale as a mom in “launch mode.” Our girls were lucky visiting colleges with their mothers to help plot their futures. As we drove through a Florida night the radio played low. There was a single pillow in the back seat. The girls, tired and fussy, weren’t happy to share that pillow. The juxtaposition of their frustration with that of the boy I had photographed the day before was stark. That very minute from the passenger seat I used my cell phone to buy a domain name – LetItBeUs.org – and a fire in my soul ignited to change the landscape of foster care and adoption for more than just the boy whose desires were etched in my mind.
My daughter found the college of her dreams. As I helped her prepare to go to college, I also began to work in earnest to start Let It Be Us. Launching a nonprofit is no small feat so I began to bring people into the fold. Our name speaks to how a team is needed to tackle this problem: almost 20,000 children are in foster care in the State of Illinois, and the majority never return home. They need forever families, but most never find one. They are children of all ages, stages and ethnicities. These are children who, if given a family, could be scientists, teachers or even play football.
Every single person I approached said yes. Five years later, Let It Be Us is doing exactly what I set out to do: changing the landscape of foster care and adoption in Illinois. We have brought in business leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to support our work in the long-ignored field of child welfare that is foster care and adoption.
Our work is extremely important as we unite people looking for a path to parenthood with children in need of life-changing opportunities in the form of a family. And yes, Let It Be Us is their matchmaker.
We recruit parents by hosting information fairs, town halls and a “Chicago Series on Foster Care and Adoption" with supporting grants from the Barrington Area Community Foundation and the Foglia Family Foundation. Learn more at LetItBeUs.org/events.
It boils down to this: Let It Be Us provides life-changing opportunities for these children, and parenting opportunities for anybody who wants to make a difference in their lives.
Let It Be Us Programs
Programs are the backbone of our work. They are evidence-based and help change the lives of the children we serve – the most vulnerable.
Supporting Individual Children Seeking Adoptive Parents
The Let It Be Us experienced recruitment team offers customized solutions for each child referred, creating a new database of parent resources for each child, which is delivered to the child's caseworker in a speedy and timely manner. Let It Be Us utilizes an aggregated registry of licensed and waiting parents, producing a subscription-based blog and multiple social media platforms that reach thousands of licensed parents while targeting specific locations and demographics.
Recruiting Foster and Adoptive Parents
The Let It Be Us Adoption and Foster Care Information Fairs directly recruit foster and adoptive parents for waiting Illinois children. Events are led by Let It Be Us Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruiters and Coaches. At our town halls we provide programming that reaches targeted audiences in different areas with different demographics for prospective parents who are married, single or same gender. Large events feature a panel of experts, as well as agencies from the area who set up informational displays. Smaller events are more intimate in nature and are designed for specific audiences. Learn about these events at letitbeus.org/events.
The Heart Gallery of Illinois
Let It Be Us produces, publishes, manages and markets the Heart Gallery of Illinois which is published online. Growing 400% in the last two years, Let It Be Us collects all inquiries for the children's profiles. The Heart Gallery of Illinois increases by ten times a child's opportunity for adoption. Visit the Heart Gallery of Illinois at letitbeus.org/let-it-be-us-heart-gallery.