Get Involved


Get Involved

  • Join Us

    A Day of Awareness and Prayer

    Join Connecticut’s 5th annual weekend of prayer for children in foster care.

    Faith communities will pledge to remember Connecticut’s foster children and youth who wait for adoptive families.

    Will yours be one of them?

    There are children waiting. They are part of the Heart Gallery of Connecticut. It is for them we ring the bells, this year 22 times. It is for them we ask you to bring awareness to your family and community. These children need permanent homes and forever families.

  • November 1-3

    Spread Awareness

    Every year, on the first weekend in November, faith communities across Connecticut join together to raise their voices in prayer and ring church bells for Connecticut’s foster children waiting for permanent homes.

    Foster and adoptive families are invited to participate in their hometowns.

    We need individual faith community members or groups to take the lead and coordinate this event in their local communities.

  • Participate

    Your Choice

    Faith communities are invited to participate by doing any combination of the following:

    a) include the waiting children in prayer during services all weekend.

    b) agreeing to ring church bells on the first Sunday in November at 6 P.M. (Many faith communities invite an adoptive family to act as honorary bell-ringers.)

    c) arrange for a candlelight vigil on a town green or other suitable venue.

    d) host a service during the weekend to pray for the needs of the children and foster and adoptive families everywhere. Often, with advance notice, speakers can be made available to a congregation at no cost.

    e) Invite foster and adoptive families to participate.

    f) Invite the press to cover your event.

The inspiration for Bells of Hope

Justin’s Story

by Deb Kelleher

Justin’s Story

by Deb Kelleher

Justin* is the inspiration for an annual Connecticut event, Bells of Hope: Ringing in a Brighter Tomorrow for CT’s Waiting Children, now in its fifth year. During the weekend of November 1-3th, faith communities will once again offer prayers and ring bells to raise awareness of the need for adoptive homes for children and youth in Connecticut. Last year close to 200 faith communities across CT agreed to offer prayer and/or ring their bells to bring attention to the children in the CT foster care system waiting for permanent homes.

The idea for this event began germinating in 2009. National Adoption Month (November) was approaching and my mind returned again and again to thoughts of my son’s brother, now 22, who had never been adopted. For purposes of confidentiality I call him Justin.

Justin is one of my son’s biological older brothers. I am the adoptive mom of three boys, all of whom were adopted through the CT foster care system, and one biological son. I had tried to adopt Justin, but, as a single parent of four boys, I was not considered an appropriate resource for him. He needed more than social workers felt I could give to another special needs child. Truth be told, I secretly shared their fears, and although I did come forward and offer to be a resource for him I knew their decision was the right one for my family and for Justin.

I met Justin when he was 9. He was a handsome young man living in a group setting. I would often bring my son, his brother, to visit him. And we also frequently had him to our home for the day. Our whole family came to love him and consider him a member of our extended family.

At one point when Justin was hospitalized, a social worker called me from the hospital. You see, Justin had told her that I was to be his adoptive mom soon. He had our phone number memorized, which made it easy for her to believe him. That situation nearly broke my heart. Here he was in the hospital, vulnerable and lonely and reaching out to me. This kind and understanding hospital social worker and I had many long talks about Justin’s future. She counseled me to continue as his “beloved aunt” because, she said, he needs a consistently loving adult in his life and if I were to ignore the wise advice of the social workers he could end up with no one — a disrupted adoption and feelings on both sides that might not heal well enough for our relationship to continue.

Well, Justin was never adopted. He moved from placement to placement for 10 long and lonely years. When he turned 19, his worker found an aunt to care for him temporarily while the state looked for a transitional life-skills program for him to attend and reside at. After having lived in congregate care for so many years he would need some help navigating the world. Unlike typical children, he had never had an allowance; his own room; regular chores to learn from; increasing responsibility and freedom to explore the world from a safe place; the ability to make mistakes and learn while being loved by a family. So, he was vulnerable to making mistakes once released into the world.

Justin did not stay with his aunt for very long. He found family rules confusing and stressful. For instance, he could not figure out why his aunt was angry when he ran up a cell phone bill of over $150 for ring tones! So, he ran away and joined a gang. He called them his new family. He claimed they accepted and valued him. From time to time he would return to his aunt’s home for brief stays but each time he would return to the streets where he felt more comfortable.

Our family spent time with Justin during the 2008 Christmas season. He spent a week with us. While doing his laundry during the visit, razor blades fell out of his pockets into my washer. He said he needed them for protection on the streets. My heart broke. Shortly after his visit he went back to the streets where he continued to live for over a year. No job. No education. No hope.

This past year, he was once again arrested. When faced with the uncertainty of a trial, he accepted a plea deal from the state’s attorney. We have tried to maintain contact but it has been very difficult. Justin will be incarcerated for the next few years.

I hope he’s okay. I think about him all the time. His little brother misses him and worries about his safety. We hope he will find someone to help him find a better life for himself — one he can be proud of.

The truth is: far too many teens in foster care age out of the system. Nationally about 25-30,000 youth “age out” of foster care every year. “Teens who are emancipated from foster care have higher rates of incarceration, unemployment, homelessness, and dependence on public assistance than non-foster youth. In fact, one in four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care; one in five will become homeless at some point after age 18. Moreover, many studies have documented a bleak outlook in education as well: only 58 percent of foster youth who aged out of the system had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of non-foster youth; and less than 3 percent of emancipated foster youth over the age of 25 earned college degrees, compared to 28 percent of the general population.” **

In fact, some studies show that approximately 50% of all youth who have been in foster care will become homeless at some time in their lives. I do not want to think of someone I love as one of these statistics. And I do not want to think of all of the other youth who age out of foster care continuing to make up these statistics. That is how Bells of Hope came to be.

The idea for “Bells” was shamelessly stolen from the Special Olympics. Back in 1995 the Worldwide Special Olympics Games were held in New Haven. My adopted son, a Special Olympian himself, was asked to do the honor of ringing the bells in our church to mark the Opening of the Games. He was thrilled and it was exciting for the whole family! Church bells rang all over Connecticut as the Games opened. What a beautiful sound! And we felt proud to be a part of something larger than ourselves.

My son was honored to be asked to ring those bells. So I thought why can’t the bells be rung for foster kids? Surely this is a worthy cause. And wouldn’t adopted kids get a kick out of being the “bell ringers?” So the seeds of Bells of Hope were born. Others have helped to tweak the idea and bring it to fruition.

In past years some town councils issued proclamations declaring the day the official Bells of Hope Day. Congregations held candlelight vigils while the bells rang. Others simply rang the bells. But everyone heard them. My goal was and is simply to get folks to think about the kids — and hopefully a few will come forward to adopt or become foster parents — because these kids are our kids — our Connecticut kids — and at the very least they deserve a few minutes of our time on a Sunday in November.

As we did the past three years, we will post a listing of the 2013 bells ringing in your community on the www.bellsofhope.org website and the Bells of Hope Facebook page. As we receive word from churches and other faith communities, they will be added to the list. On or around October 26, we will post the official number of times the bells should ring – once for each child waiting. Faith communities that can, will ring the designated number of times at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Churches that have less control over their bells may choose to ring at a different time, a different number of times or if they have no bells they can participate by asking for prayers from their congregants during services the first weekend in November.

Want to help? Contact us through the Bells of Hope website or call Jackie at 203-641-5710 or Caryl at 860-243-1806 and you will be referred to one of our regional organizers so you can volunteer or sign up your faith community. If everyone does just a little, fewer kids will wait in foster care who just need a place to call home.

* To protect the identity of this young man his name has been changed . All other details are factual.
**Taken from Youth Aging Out of Foster Care by Sharon Landvoy


We need individual faith community members or groups to take the lead and coordinate this event in their local communities.
Here are are the details for this year's event.

News and Info

Press Coverage and Media Packets

News and Info

Press Coverage and Media Packets

A Brighter Tomorrow

Bells of Hope is one of Connecticut’s statewide National Adoption Month initiatives.

  • Letter to Faith Leaders

    Click here to download the PDF.

    Logo and Widget

    Bells of Hope promotional widget

    Use in newsletters and emails:

    Bells of Hope support foster children widget

    Right click and save the Bells of Hope Logo you see below

    Bells of Hope Logo for Promoting the event

    Artwork for Non-Commercial Use on Bells of Hope Events, © Copyright 2010 Bells of Hope www.bellsofhope.org
    All Rights Reserved.

  • 2013 Poster

    Poster 1 pdf here.
    Poster 2 pdf here.


    Suggested Bulletin Blurb

    Bells of Hope is a statewide National Adoption Month initiative dedicated to raising awareness of the continued need for adoptive homes for children in foster care. Through the offering of prayer and intentions for these children throughout the first weekend in November, faith communities will support adoptive families and children waiting. Additionally, bells throughout Connecticut will ring at 6 pm on Sunday for children ready and waiting for permanent homes. In Connecticut, there is an ongoing need for more families for waiting children and youth, as either foster or adoptive resources. Every year in Connecticut, between 400 and 600 adoptions from foster care are finalized. Please pray that these children find permanent, loving homes and that the families who come forward to meet their needs receive the love and support from their communities necessary to successfully parent all the children in their homes. For more information on how you can become a foster or adoptive parent, please contact us through the Bells of Hope website: www.BellsOfHope.org or call 1-888-KID-HERO

    Gifts & Donations

    General Gifts - Bells of Hope Project

    Memorial Gifts - In Memory of Phyllis Abelson

  • News Stories

    Press Coverage

    The Caring Gift of Adoption Is Celebrated
    11/24/2010 by Litchfield County Times
    The initiative, called Bells of Hope, in its second year, was considered widely successful according to its founder, Deb Kelleher, regional coordinator for regional coordinator for Foster Adoptive Mission, a foster care and adoption community collaborative serving northern and central Connecticut. “Awareness all over Connecticut was raised on Sunday,” Ms. Kelleher said in a press release. “People have been touched by Bells of Hope. I’ve already received phone calls and inquiries about the children because folks have been moved by the plight of these kids. I feel so blessed that the event has blossomed to include the support of agencies like Covenant to Care; the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents; Hearts, Hands, and Homes; and the Department of Children and Families....” Read More >>ng>

    10/4/2011 - Justin's Story and Bells of Hope by Deb Kelleher

    11/6/2010 - Bells Of Hope Exceeds Founder’s Expectations by John Rook

    Bells of Hope Event featured on on WTNH CT Style 10/22/10

    10/22/2010 - Courtesy WTNH.
    More information...

    09/19/2010 - Governor Rell: State Earns $520,809 Federal Award For Progress Made in Child Adoptions
    Press Release

    10/17/2009 - Cheshire Herald

    11/4/2009 - TimesUnion.com

    11/1/2009 - Governor Rell’s Press Release

    10/20/2009 - Hartford Courant

    10/29/2009 - Greenwich Time


We’d like to hear from you!


We’d like to hear from you!

Contact us through the form provided,
or call Jackie: 203-641-5710
or David: 860-243-1806

Gifts & Donations

General Gifts - Bells of Hope Project

Memorial Gifts - In Memory of Phyllis Abelson