BRISTOL - Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center invited foster parents and children to share their stories Thursday in honor of National Foster Care Month.
In addition to hearing personal stories from foster parents and children, guests could view the “Heart Gallery,” which had photos and information about children in need of a home.
Speakers included foster mother Irene Kish, adult foster child Sam, Foster Care and Adoption Recruitment Specialist Jacqueline Ford, retired foster parent Marie Piccolo and adult foster child Anthony.
The event also featured remarks from Joette Katz, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families; Vanessa Dorantes, regional administrator of DCF Region Five (Danbury, Torrington, Waterbury); Coral Richardson, director of Imagine Nation; and Renee DiNiro, director or community affairs at IHeartMedia, who was the master of ceremonies.
“We are proud to be part of this event and to host the Heart Gallery,” said Richardson. “We have 15,000 visitors each year and we hope we can inspire others to think about giving a needy child a happy, healthy home to grow up in.”
Katz said it was an honor to serve alongside 3,500 DCF employees who serve 15,000 families and 36,000 kids annually.
“When children have to be removed from homes our goal is to place them in foster care, not an institutional setting,” said Katz. “I believe every child should have breakfast in the morning with the same people who put you to bed the night before. Fifty percent we are able to reunite with their families, which is tremendous, but takes a lot of work.”
Katz called Kish and Piccolo her heroes. Kish has provided foster care for 106 children including medically complicated cases. Piccolo has cared for 15 children over 13 years and she herself grew up in the system.
“Being a foster parent is difficult in a lot of ways you don’t realize but it makes a huge impact on the lives of families and children,” said Kish. “I have one biological daughter, six children adopted from the state of Connecticut and three from overseas - two from Korea and one from Romania. I also take care of my 89-year-old mother. It’s a big house but foster care has made me a better person.”
Brendan, 15, who was adopted by Kish at age 3, said he was abused as a child and told he was never supposed to walk or talk.
“Look at me now; I’m in high school track and I want to go to college for forensic science,” he said.
Piccolo was then introduced by Ford, who called her “stoic yet compassionate” and “stern yet affectionate.”
“I went into foster care when I was six years old,” said Piccolo. “My mother died and my father was unable to take care of nine kids at the time. First I went to an orphanage and then into foster care. I said that one day I wanted to give back to the system and thankfully my husband was supportive of me after our four kids were out of the house.”
Piccolo then introduced Anthony, whom she took into foster care when he was 4 years old. He had been born prematurely with a controlled substance in his system.
“I vividly remember Marie being calm and patient with me,” he said. “My mom visited me on weekends and eventually adopted me again but I never forgot how much I bonded with Marie. Thirteen years later I visited with her before I went to serve in Afghanistan. In case I didn’t make it back I wanted to say goodbye.”
Anthony has since become a driver for Fed-Ex.
For more information about foster care and adoption needs in Connecticut, call 1-888-kidhero or visit .
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at or .