MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There were lights, and cameras, and all of the action a production set brings.
Nearly two dozen child stars got were invited to Zoo Miami for a different kind of celebrity treatment, complete with hair, make-up, and wardrobe.
The children were not actors. Many of their stories of neglect and abuse are all too real.
But, so were their hopes and dreams.
"I just want to have a good family," said Rosa. The 15-year-old was getting her hair styled when she spoke with the Leave it to Layron team.
Devon Telfort is 9-years-old and said he looks forward to finding a mother and father who will take care of him and love him.
Flora Beal" is with Our Kids, an agency that manages foster and adoption services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. She said there's a glaring disparity in the child welfare system: about 65-percent of the families and the children that are in her agency’s care are of color—African-American, Caribbean-American, and Hispanic.
But, Beal said the majority of people opening their homes children don't come from those communities.
"And that causes problems, sometimes,” said Beal. “Because you have to change schools when you send a child outside of their neighborhood, that causes educational delays, they lose their friends, they lose other support systems around them.”
Beal said her agency does not discourage interracial adoptions. But, she said there are benefits to communities of color opening their homes to children in the welfare system.
"When a child shares that cultural history, the ethnicity, the background of the family that's adopting them, it just makes it that much easier for them to acclimate to that family," said Beal
Janeris Marte is one of the professional photographers who was tapped to take pictures of the children. Their portraits and profiles will be featured on The Children’s Trust Miami Heart Gallery website. It’s an online multimedia exhibit that showcases children in the foster care system who are ready to be adopted into forever families.
"There were three kids I photographed, last year, and all three got adopted," said Marte.
Marte is Dominican. She speaks Spanish, and said so do her two little girls who are of African-American and Puerto Rican decent. Both are also adopted.
“Their hair looks just like mine,” Marte said, smiling. “Really, kinky, curly, fun, big hair.” Marte said something that simple has helped her girls feel as though they are part of her family. Marte said her daughters just want to be loved, just like every other child.
"What matters is that you're proud of them, you’re happy to have them, and that they belong. That's all that matters,” said Marte.
To learn more about adoption, and to view profiles of children ready to be adopted, click here.