December 4, 2010
  • 12/4/2010 - Real faces of foster care 

    By Emily DeRuy 

    San Mateo Daily Journal 

     

    The caption beside the picture of a smiling boy wearing a sports jersey describes a 12-year-old 

    with a passion for basketball and cooking. It also illustrates that the boy hopes, one day, to be 

    adopted by a family that can provide him with unconditional love and support. 

     

    The photograph, along with approximately 70 other images, is part of the fourth annual Bay Area 

    Heart Gallery. Designed to highlight the need for adoptive and foster families, the exhibit 

    features images by professional photographers who donated their time and energy in an effort to 

    put real faces on the 10,000 children living in foster care in the Bay Area. Showing through Dec. 

    17 at San Mateo’s main library, the photographs depict children in need of adoptive families or 

    lifelong connections to committed adults, as well as pictures of families that have grown through 

    adoption. 

     

    Beverly Beasley Johnson, director of the county’s Human Services Agency, hopes visitors to the 

    gallery will also come away from the experience with a sense of the featured children’s 

    individual spirits and be inspired to adopt, foster or mentor a child. 

     

    “The exhibit raises awareness of the kids still waiting. It makes it personal and appeals to the 

    heart,” said Johnson. 

     

    The gallery focuses on older children and youth, from age eight through the late teens, which 

    represents the largest age bracket in foster care in San Mateo County. Johnson and San Mateo 

    County Supervisor Carole Groom said older children, who so often bounce from one foster 

    placement to another, deserve the sense of stability and belonging that having a loving family 

    provides. 

     

    “This county treasures children,” said Groom. “We have over 300 kids in foster care right in San 

    Mateo County, and we want those children to have homes, to have parents, to have siblings. 

    These are the faces of kids who are star athletes, volunteers, budding comedians. These kids are 

    our future.” 

     

    Both city officials and foster parents alike are quick to point out that there is no standard idea of 

    what constitutes a suitable foster or adoptive family. The families pictured in the gallery reflect 

    the diversity of adoptive families in the Bay Area. 

     

    Kelly Kramer has been fostering children for more than eight years. She provides emergency 

    shelter care, and has housed children from as little as one day up to one year. She urges people to 

    consider foster parenting, no matter their lifestyle. 

     

    “I’ve been a foster parent with a partner, and as a single mom. You can rent a home, or own it. 

    You can have a demanding career, or not. The county is extremely supportive in making sure it works

    for you,” said Kramer. “I get way more than I give and it’s incredible to watch the transformation in the kids.” 

     

    When Kramer is available to foster a child, she places her name on a list and waits for a call. She 

    is free to remove herself from the list at any time. When a child is placed in her care, the family 

    gets a mentor and has the opportunity to take advantage of other services, like a foster parent 

    association group. She acknowledges that foster parenting may seem daunting to many people, 

    but said it is a fulfilling way to provide a badly needed service to children. 

     

    Bill and Julie Curran had talked for years about serving as foster parents, but hesitated about 

    pursuing the idea. They finally welcomed Kevin, then 12, into their family four years ago, and 

    they haven’t looked back. With the support of Bill and Julie’s adult children and their extended 

    family, the couple has helped Kevin go from a quiet, reserved boy to an outgoing teenager. His 

    previously failing grades have risen enough to land him on the honor roll. And when he first 

    transferred schools, to one attended by Bill and Julie’s niece, she introduced Kevin as her cousin. 

    “He’s part of the family,” said Bill. “It’s been really enjoyable, watching him go from really 

    quiet when he first moved in, to a typical teenager, with the attitude and everything else.” 

     

    Sonya Chaudry, who emancipated out of the foster system at 18 and is now a sophomore at 

    Stanford University, said it is that sense of belonging, of being part of a family, that is so 

    important. 

     

    “Before you enter a family, there’s always a fear that you don’t belong anywhere,” said Chaudry. 

    “Every youth deserves the feeling of being loved, of belonging.”