The Children’s Trust Miami Heart Gallery
On July 10th, excitement swirled at the Florida International University’s Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum. Twelve youngsters were there for two reasons; one being to enjoy the exhibits at the new museum but more importantly, they were there to have their hopes and dreams captures on video. What did they hope and dream about? A stable and loving family to call their own.
The twelve children were being featured in videos for The Children’s Trust Miami Heart Gallery. This Gallery is an online multimedia exhibit that showcases older children in Miami-Dade’s foster care system who are ready to join a permanent adoptive family. It can be viewed at miamiheartgallery.org.
In Miami-Dade alone there are over 530 foster children who are ready and seeking to acquire a real mom and dad.
James R. Haj, President and CEO of the Children’s Trust stated, “We want to remind our community, week after week, year after year, that the older adoptable children in Miami-Dade have value and potential beyond measure. They are eager to have a permanent, loving home.”
Sandra Camacho, Media Liaison and Community Outreach Specialist, explained, “These are children whose parents have lost their parental rights. They now live in foster homes or group homes across the county. I’ve been with the Children’s Trust for 10 years and the collaboration between the award-winning professional photographers, hair stylists, clothing suppliers, location providers and the Children’s Trust is amazing.” She added, “This could be the opportunity where they will find their forever family. Everyone volunteering really make a difference in the children’s lives. We have had over 300 children featured but when over half of these children get adopted, it makes a big difference.”
For the Presswood family of Homestead, Edwin – 20 something, Lawrence – 20, Giovanni -17, John – 15 and Fabian – 13, they know what a chance fostering gives them. Their dad, William Presswood, age 38, has fostered and then adopted the five boys. Three of the children were featured in The Heart Gallery.
“I adopted Fabian when he was 12, Giovanni was 15, Lawrence and Edwin were 17 and John was 13. I’m a high school teacher and I work with older kids and have done it for a long time. I don’t mind the young ones but the older ones are not bad. People think older equals more problems but in all actuality, it is not that situation. You can talk with them and rationalize with them. It goes along with what I do every day.” William will teach high school social studies at Somerset High School this year.
“I started because one of my students went into foster care. I was young…ten years ago, and teaching at Miami Beach Senior High and I really debated about what to do. This student had a bad reputation at school but I knew he was a good kid and his reputation was due to his situation at home but he came to school every day…dirty or not. He may have slept through class, but he still came to school. That showed me he wanted to be there. In foster care, they moved him to a group home in South Miami, far away, so I volunteered to pick him up every day to take him to school. At the time, I still debated whether to take him in but I started fostering classes but didn’t tell him as I was nervous if I’d get approved. I discussed it with him at the end because I didn’t want to be another adult who failed him. It worked out and he came to live with me.
“After that, they started calling me to take more children. I was kind of reluctant but I took one and then they asked if I’d take his brother!” He laughed. “They called me about another one and I told them I didn’t have a bed but they provided one. It was an amazing experience. Edwin was one of those boys but adoption never crossed my mind. I was only twenty something. I discussed it with him and at 17, he really didn’t believe it was an option for him but we moved forward with it as we were both very happy.”
He continued, “After Edwin I got Lawrence, John, Giovanni and then Fabian. I have had a great experience. At the core of it, they are all good kids, just have had some bad shakes in life. I try to show them that not all adults will let you down. You can see the difference in them when you make that commitment to them.”
In addition, Presswood has fostered over 100 other children and currently has two foster children. Many children have aged out of the system with William but he always offers them a home. Some go back and think things will change but sometimes they do not. “I let all my kids know that I am not taking you away from your family. My place is to give you more family, not take away from them. You can have this family and them.” said William.
When asked about having one that he regretted, William clearly became emotional. “There was one boy that I really cared about. He did some bad things but wasn’t a bad person. He had some major mental health issues. I did all I could to keep him but the other kids were scared of him. He was suffering. I tried my best. I never knew what human trafficking was until he became involved in it. He ‘s now in the prison population but I’m hoping that maybe there he will get the mental help he needs.” Presswood choked up.
In speaking of the fostering process Presswood stated, “The support you receive is wonderful.” My first children were through the now-defunct program, Charlie, and they were really supportive but now I have built a support system through the foster parent association and that is the key that keeps me going.”
“People think I’m wonderful and special and say they could never do this. They can and I’m not special at all. It is about giving that child the best weekend ever…taking them to The Fair, talking to them positively, listening to them, etc. Parenting is trial and error. It’s a normal situation. There is nothing extreme about this.” Said Presswood.
At the current time, Edwin is at Florida State University and will graduate in December with a degree in Social Work. Lawrence is a student at Miami-Dade Community College. William explained, “All foster children and adoptees in the state receive free in state tuition. I tell my kids, you won the lottery! This is an opportunity that you can’t throw away!”
William added, “I’ve had some challenging children but that is a very minute part of it. On the other hand, I have seen kids who people have given up on who became productive members of society. I encourage people to get involved.”
Anyone interested in learning about adopting a foster child or becoming a foster parent should call Our Kids at 305-455-6241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.