Hamilton County JFS has been recognized with an Achievement Award for children and youth programs from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that enhance services for residents.
NACo recognized HCJFS’ Heart Gallery of children available for adoption. It is one of three HCJFS programs to receive a NACo award this year. Look on this site for stories about the other two awards.
The Heart Gallery enhances the level of citizen understanding of, and participation in, the adoption process. It increases attention to the HCKids.org website and the portraits and biographies of children available for adoption. It will be an important tool in the goal of getting the adoption message in front of as many people as possible, as often as possible.
NACo President Bryan Desloge said, “Counties overcome complex challenges, provide essential services and constantly do more with less. We applaud these Achievement Award-winning counties for outstanding efforts to improve residents’ quality of life.”
Nationally, NACo awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.
HCJFS Communications team members Jane Prendergast and Travina Adams led the effort with assistance other employees in the communications unit and many children’s services workers.
The Heart Gallery was a mass marketing effort. The idea was to get the best pictures of children in front of as many eyes as possible, with the hopes that a compelling photo would catch someone’s eye and spur them to find out more.
It was created over the course of a year. The agency started by reaching out to professional photographers to partner with us in creating moving portraits of children available for adoption and developed a collection of compelling professional portraits.
Each portrait tells a story. She might be the daughter of a father gripped with heroin addiction. He might be the son of a mother who can’t overcome her mental illness. He might have been his siblings’ protector, taking the brunt of the abuse so they could be spared.
But these photos are not about looking back. They’re about looking forward to what could be. Each of these children has hopes and dreams of a better day. Of a safe home. Of a loving family…forever.
With up to 14 stands and 50 portraits, the gallery can expand or shrink to fit into spaces large and small. Those who host the gallery can simply ask for as many stands as they think will fit. The stands can also be configured to different heights and widths, topping out at 8 feet tall.
To announce this effort, the agency held a gala kickoff event on April 13 for local officials and business leaders, as well as partners in its adoption and foster care efforts. More than 100 people attended and the event was covered by the local media.
HCJFS promoted the gallery through its websites and social media. It also shared media coverage of the kickoff event and continues to update the collection of portraits (as new children enter the system and others leave it) and seek new locations for them to be displayed.
So far, the Heart Gallery has been displayed at more than a dozen locations, including Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; and several churches and galleries.
A secondary goal of the Heart Gallery was to increase traffic to the agency’s HCKids.org website, where prospective parents can learn more about available children and the adoption process in general. Comparing the month of April 2016 to the same month in the previous year, the site saw a 106 percent increase in sessions, a 97 percent increase in users and a 107 percent increase in views. The Hearty Gallery page, since the launch, has had more than 1,000 views.