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A picture is worth a thousand words

"My goal is to keep him out of institutions, as this only adds to his issues," wrote the mother. "He needs someone to stand behind him through thick and thin " that would be me and all the people who work with families in times of crises."

Pirrone said she sees in that letter the qualities she wants adoptive parents to possess, such as knowing their child's needs and nurturing a child to reach his or her potential. Of course, a good sense of humor also goes a long way.

"If you are here thinking about adoption, I ask you to search your soul to see if you have these qualities," said Pirrone. "I encourage you to open your heart and home to one of our children."

In 2001, the concept of the Heart Gallery was born when an adoptive mother walked into her local Department of Social Services in New Mexico, said Aurelia Colamarino, director of the county's Office of Children and Family Services. That mother thought photography could help inspire people to adopt children.

Currently, there are 120 Heart Galleries throughout the country and Canada said Colamarino. Since 2005, there has been a Heart Gallery in the Capital District, which has resulted in 40 adoptions through the program.

"I think the other important thing this campaign does for us is it gives souls to these children and shows the individuality, and it should inspire all of us to do something," said Colamarino.

Dennis Packard, commissioner for the county's Department of Social Services, echoed Colamarino and said he hoped the event highlighted the need locally for children to be adopted.

"This is not just Schenectady, this is our region, and this is our opportunity to have this gem here, but I want you to realize that there are children all over the state," said Packard. "I can tell you that every county in this state will work with you just as diligently as we do and the workers in those counties are absolutely just as dedicated."

The Heart Gallery is on display at Delack Guild Room in Proctors till Feb. 28. For information on adopting a child contact the Schenectady County Department of Social Services at 388-4399, or visit www.schenectadycounty.com.

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