AUSTIN — November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness month, and here in Central Texas, there are 900 children each day who are eligible for adoption, who are awaiting their forever home.
On Thursday night, the Blanton Museum of Art will host a special exhibit bringing awareness to the area children awaiting adoption in Central Texas.
Organizers of the Heart Gallery of Central Texas will unveil their portrait exhibit of local foster children from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The free, public event brings awareness to the foster care system and adoption process. The event is in its fifth year and is put on annually by Partnerships for Children, which provides critical resources to abused and neglected children in our community who are in the care of Child Protective Services.
Katie Young, director of Donor Development for Partnerships for Children said that the exhibit features the portraits of 230 children of all ages, but with special attention to those who are at times overlooked in the adoption process.
"The reason behind the Heart Gallery is to focus our attention and awareness on children that are harder to adopt. That can include children that are older, in sibling groups or are medically fragile," explained Young. "I think they're surprised there are so many children available for adoption right here in Travis County. I think that number  is surprising to most people. I think they look at those photographs and think 'those are just like my kids! Those kids look just like my kids -- no different.' It's just a great way to provide awareness to the community."
Those in attendance will also have the opportunity to meet the former University of Texas and NFL player Quan Cosby, who will share his personal adoption story. At age 13, Cosby and his twin brother were adopted by family friends and mentors. He is now a sideline reporter at the Texas football games as part of the broadcasting team for Texas Baseball. He also sits on the Partnerships for Children Advisory Board, serving as a spokesperson for adoption.
Young said that through the Heart Gallery, she has been able to see the powerful impact it has had in making adoption a reality for children.
"In Travis and surrounding counties, there are about 900 children available for adoption; that's a lot of kids. We feature about 225 to 230 in the Heart Gallery year-round rolling in and out. Before the Heart gallery, those kids had about a 1 percent chance of being adopted, and now with the heart galleries, they have over a 60 percent chance of being adopted."
Ahead of Thursday's event, Young also addressed the misconceptions that sometimes arise surrounding the adoption process.
"A lot of times, people do have a misconception that adoption is expensive or cumbersome. But it's really not. There are ways, and... sometimes you can even get a refund for your legal fees, so don't be afraid or hesitant because of financial reasons because there are ways around that," explained Young. "We have several other projects with partnerships for children like the Rainbow Room, which is an emergency resource room in our CPS office that most of the kids in the Heart Gallery were served by when they first came into care. So, if maybe you can't adopt or foster, you can always support the same kiddos."
There will be around 230 portraits on display at the Heart Gallery, all of the portraits are taken by 30 local, volunteer photographers. If you are a photographer and believe this is something you would like to do, Partnerships for Children said they are always looking to welcome more.
If you are not able to make Thursday night's event, the gallery is always accessible to view online.
Attendees must RSVP ahead of the event, you can do that by clicking here.
The Blanton Museum of Art is located at 200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78712.