When David Louis turned 2, he and his two siblings were taken from their teenage mother and placed into foster care. His older sister was taken into custody by his grandparents, but they only had room for one child.
Louis and his younger brother would go through dozens of foster homes and shelters before they finally landed in an institute for children.
One day, a family visited the institution looking to adopt a little boy. The couple chose Louis’s brother, and no one else.
Alone at 6 years old, Louis bounced through 30 placements in the foster-care system and changed schools 19 times, seeing his brother and sister a handful of times along the way. When he “aged out” of the system at 18, the state released him from its charge.
“Every single day I wished and prayed and cried for a family to adopt me, to choose me to be their son,” Louis says. “I vowed to use all my experience to help other children not have to face the desperation and loneliness I contended with.”
After 10 years of gaining counseling experiences, Louis began laying the groundwork for what would later become Heart Gallery Hawaii. The grass-roots effort was founded in October 2005 as a way to assist the Hawaii Department of Human Services in the awareness and adoption of local foster children who have been permanently separated from their families because of abuse, neglect or death. HGH is now the largest Heart Gallery in the country. Louis also is the first-ever executive director of the Heart Gallery of America, which oversees all 128 galleries in 49 states.
Another positive spin the father of three put on his foster-care experience was writing the book Scars That Can Heal, which offers thoughts on how to help children in the system today. Money from sales of the book continues to provide funds for HGH’s grant-a-wish program.
Most recently, Louis (pictured here with Jordan Renner) teamed up with Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii to give 40 foster care keiki a day to just horse around. He and the 200-plus HGH volunteers also provide on a regular basis mentoring opportunities and events where children can interact with prospective adoptive parents. (Louis and wife Dove adopted their eldest son, Luke, shortly after his 17th birthday.)
Nov. 21 is National Adoption Day. Louis says this year they plan to take a trip to Sea Life Park and invite families who have adopted from Hawaii’s foster-care system.
To volunteer or support HGH’s efforts, or if you are interested in adoption, visit www.heartgalleryofamerica.org or call 295-1929.
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