For over a decade, professional photographer, Jackie Mastromatteo, has been volunteering as a MARE Heart Gallery photographer. The Heart Gallery, a series of waiting child portraits, debuted in 2005 as a contemporary way to connect the public to adoption and Jackie was one of the first photographers to join the volunteer program.
All it took was an email to a local Department of Children and Families (DCF) asking about opportunities to lend her time and talents to. The department pointed her to MARE where she initially met with Executive Director, Lisa Funaro. As one of the first photographers involved in the Heart Gallery, Jackie has driven across the state and back to capture stunning images of children seeking a loving, permanent family.
While Jackie and her husband, Jay, had always wanted to adopt, at the time Jackie started volunteering with MARE, adoption was not on their minds. “We always thought we would have biological children first and adopt children after.”, explained Jackie. “That is not the way things turned out.”
After many many years of infertility struggles, they decided to attend MAPP training and start the adoption process. Just two weeks after certification, their daughter, Erykah, finally blessed their home in 2012, and they instantly fell in love. Erykah moved in two weeks before Thanksgiving and just shy of her first birthday; their initial court date was scheduled for January and what they believed would be a smooth process with the date just around the corner quickly became complicated.
Jackie grew up in a town where everyone knew each other and it eventually came to light that she knew Erykah’s biological mother. This changed things; she reached out and built a relationship with the biological mother. During court dates and meetings, Jackie would sit with her; a sight normally unseen.
Through all of this, Jackie continued to volunteer her time and talents as a MARE photographer. She continued to build rapport with both the social workers she was working with as a photographer in addition to the workers she was working with through her family’s own adoption process.
While Jackie and Jay waited for the finalization of their daughter’s adoption, Erykah’s biological brother was born. Cole came home to the family directly from the hospital at two weeks old, about one and a half years after Erykah entered their lives.
Though saddened by the recent loss of Erykah and Cole’s birth mother, Jackie feels blessed for the special bond they had and grateful she is able to tell the kids how much their birth mother loved them.
Their adoption process was quite lengthy and at times grueling And though their case was anything, but easy and they hit every obstacle imaginable from a retiring judge to the loss of their very loved social worker, Wendy, they were over the moon excited to make it official almost 4 years later!
To this day, Jackie still volunteers with MARE as a photographer. In addition to raising her two beautiful children with her husband, she is able to capture portraits of children seeking permanent families, not unlike her own children early in their lives. Jay and Jackie provide unconditional love to their two children and could not imagine their lives any other way. They are so grateful that adoption has given them the gift of becoming parents to two amazing children who have given their lives so much purpose and meaning. They celebrate adoption and hope by sharing their story that they can encourage others to consider adopting as well.
“As an adoptive parent you will encounter things that other parents don’t understand”, said Jackie. “When it comes to the adoption process, keeping your faith and trusting your instincts and social worker are imperative. Every bump whether big or small is worth the fight!” While adoption can be difficult, every story is unique. That being said, today just like any other family, the Brattons enjoy travelling, cheering on the Patriots, bedtime stories, kitchen dance parties, and family movie nights.