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Local photographers volunteer to take portraits of children awaiting adoption

Around the holidays, professional photographers are volunteering their time to help local foster kids find their forever families.

AUSTIN — As families prepare to ring in the holidays together, all some Central Texas children want for Christmas is the opportunity to find a forever home and family.

Year-round, the non-profit Partnerships for Children works to see that goal through, and they also get a helping hand from local photographers who volunteer their time to take photos of children in foster care as part of the Heart Gallery program.

"Our photographers are the lifeblood of our program. Without them, we couldn't do this amazing work," said Megan Ransom, director of foster and adopt services for Partnerships for Children. "Here in Central Texas, last year we had over 70 kids adopted out of the Heart Gallery."

Ransom explained that before the Heart Gallery was implemented that teens, sibling groups and children who were medically fragile in foster care had only a one percent chance of being adopted. But now, thanks to the program, these children have a 60 percent chance of being adopted.

RELATED: Heart Gallery provides hope to Central Texas children awaiting adoption

Local family photographer Becky Kittleman is one of those professionals that make the portraits happen. She's been volunteering her time to take photos for the Heart Gallery over the last 15 years.

"They're such sweet kids and they, they just love. They want to find a home so bad," Kittleman said. "I remember when I first started, a boy, he was 17, about to age out, and he was talking about how important it was for the older kids to find a home. He's like, when you get your first job or when you graduate from college, who do you go tell? And it just, it just broke my heart."

So now, Kittleman takes that heartache and turns it into something beautiful. She shared there have been times where, for some children, it's their first time ever having their photo taken.

"I just try to make him feel at ease. Just try to make it fun and don't worry about that everything's perfect. Just make it casual and not stressful for them," she said.

The process of adoption is something that hits home for Kittleman. She adopted her son, now 27, when he was only 10 days old.

"We tried to have children for quite a while, went through the whole process. It's just very meaningful to bring that baby home, and there's nothing like being a parent. The older you get the more meaningful family becomes," said Kittleman. "No matter what age these kids are, they need a home. They need someone that loves them, unconditional love for these kids. And I want to help any way I can."

One photo shoot led Kittleman to 9-year-old Zack, a third-grader who is eager to open some presents on Christmas Day, and who is also looking for a forever home and caring family.

This is the first time Zack's portrait will be featured in the heart gallery. He is ready for adoption, and you can view his photos here.

If you are interested in learning more about Zack, or about the process of adopting or fostering, click here for more information.

If you are a photographer and interested in volunteering to take portraits for the Heart Gallery, click here to begin signing up.

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