Taking the Heart Gallery Statewide
By Kori Gough, Heart Galleries of Texas Director
So much of this past year was focused on the next chapter for Partnerships for Children during our Executive Director transition. With Angel now in place, I am excited to share with you MY next chapter which is centered around the expansion of one of our beloved programs – the Heart Gallery. For many years, PFC has led efforts to coordinate statewide collaborations to better serve the children and youth waiting for their forever homes. Our Heart Gallery program has become the model for adoption recruitment and our state leadership has taken notice.
Each day, more than 6,000 children in the Texas foster care system are waiting to be adopted and find a place to call home. The Heart Gallery was born with the purpose of utilizing the power of photography to capture the individuality and dignity of children living in foster care, to advocate for their permanency, raise public awareness about their needs, and obtain support to help meet those needs. Our Heart Gallery program assists caseworkers in what many consider to be their hardest cases, finding homes for teens, sibling groups, and medically fragile children when parental rights have been terminated. Often these same populations of waiting children are also at the highest risk of staying in care for extended periods of time. Our Heart Gallery has been an influential tool for adoptive parent recruitment and our outcomes highlight this success. Year over year, the Central Texas Region shows approximately 13% higher overall adoption rates as compared to the rest of the state.
Over the next few years, I will be working with the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services to organize, establish and support the development of Heart Gallery programs within (9) additional regions throughout Texas based on the proven model in Central Texas. Developing a statewide association of Heart Galleries will allow for the expansion of education and awareness around adoption recruitment. This will include a level of both consistency and communication that will eliminate many of the barriers we face today when recruiting for Texas children.
I will never forget being approached (when I was only 6months on the job) about PFC taking over the Heart Gallery program for Central Texas. Since that day, we have celebrated the adoption of hundreds of children featured in the Heart Gallery and struggled when an adoption failed. Each step of the way, our amazing staff, and collaborative partners have had one goal in mind – positive permanency for the children we serve. We know that this looks different for every child, but we are determined to always give our best to hit that goal. This is what makes this program both unique and successful. We depend on our partners, and we keep the children at the center of our work.
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