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The Heart Gallery: Finding homes for hundreds of kids in Central Texas foster care

The program exposes the public to more children in the foster care system looking for a forever home, who may otherwise go unnoticed in the system.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. That has never been truer for the nearly 1,000 children in Central Texas foster care looking for a forever home. 

The Heart Gallery of Central Texas is a community outreach program made up of about 200 to 300 children at any one time. Professional photographers volunteer to take their photos with the goal of capturing the attention of families across Texas. 

The photo is then placed on the Heart Gallery website, and during non-coronavirus times, printed out and taken to various events in the Austin area for people to see.

"It pretty much takes their profile off a piece of paper and brings life to them," said Marilyn Briggs, the Heart Gallery program coordinator. "It brings so much value and sometimes that is the only chance that some of these kids have for that kind of exposure." 

PHOTOS: Heart Gallery of Central Texas

The Heart Gallery has been active for seven years under the organization Partnerships for Children. The Heart Gallery of America was founded in 2001. 

"I say it’s amazing and actually heartbreaking at the same time because they get dressed up and wear their best outfit, and they say 'Do you think someone is going to want to adopt me?'" said Kori Gough, the executive director at Partnerships for Children.

The children featured in the Heart Gallery and on the Forever Families segments with KVUE are typically considered harder to place such as older children, sibling groups, or children with special needs. 

"Caseworkers in general and child-placing agencies have limited resources so our goal is to help in that journey," said Michele Freeman, the Heart Gallery program manager. 

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Learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent at these monthly sessions

While this is a moment for these children to shine, it is also an opportunity for them to have fun and experience something new. 

"The segment we are doing with [KVUE], they love doing those and some of the special guests they have the opportunity to meet," Freeman said. 

Since the organization has been around, it has found homes for 500 children. 

The process to adopt is not quick, Briggs said.

"It's according to whether they have been through the process to be licensed to adopt," Briggs added. 

That process alone takes as little as two months and it starts with an information session

Once the child matches with the family, those parents have the opportunity to bring that child into their home for six months to see if they fit in and are comfortable. 

To learn more about the Heart Gallery and see what kids are in it, visit the website.

WATCH: Heart Gallery highlights Central Texas kids seeking homes

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