DATE:  October 24, 2005
CONTACT: Carole Peterson, Community Outreach Office, (361) 825-5966; Janice Washington, Foster Adoption Recruiter, (361) 878-7541; or Melissa Goonan, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2337

“The Heart Gallery of South Texas” to Feature Photos of Local Foster Children Seeking Permanent Adoptive Families

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi students use skills for project

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student Jessica Doege and alumna Dianitza Josephs’ photographs offer the viewer a glimpse into a life—a life that tells you being nine is too old or that having a brother or sister only makes it harder to hope for a normal life. For children who have been waiting more than three years to be adopted, those are facts that have a profound impact.

“I’m not going to find a family. It’s impossible because I’m older,” is an example of the replies given to Janice Washington, foster adoption recruiter with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Region 11. “It’s hard because they are aware of the challenges,” she said. “I tell them it’s a challenge but it’s not impossible.”

The portraits by Doege and Joseph are part of an exhibit called “The Heart Gallery of South Texas” that features 21 framed 12” x 16” photos of local children seeking permanent adoptive families. The children chosen to be part of the exhibit are considered more challenging to place because of their age (nine years or older) or because they are a sibling group that wants to be placed together.

According to the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) Web site there were 3,436 children waiting for adoption through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as of January 31, 2005. Of these, 1,277 were Hispanic, 1,035 were African-American, 959 were Anglo and 165 were classified as other. This includes 1,921 male and 1,515 female children waiting to be adopted.

The Heart Gallery exhibit, which was founded by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department in 2001, is a way to call attention to foster children in protective custody, who are waiting for adoptive families, by exhibiting professional photos of the children. The stirring portraits which reveal the children's amazing spirits and individuality have helped many of them find homes.

The “Heart Gallery of South Texas” is a collaborative project between the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, A&M-Corpus Christi students and the University’s Community Outreach Department. In August, Doege and Joseph began photographing the children. During the photo shoots, students from Dr. Catherine Quick’s Principles of Professional Report Writing class would interview the children to write their biographical sketches that will accompany the photographs at the exhibit.

Doege agreed to be part of the Heart Gallery project because it sounded interesting, but she was unprepared for the attachment she would feel for the children.

“I didn’t realize how special it was until we got started,” she said. These kids have been through so much. It really makes me appreciate my family and realize how lucky I am.”

In order to capture the kid’s spunk and vitality, Doege would read their biographical sketches to get to know them and put them at ease in front of her camera.

“I want people to see these kids the way I do,” said Doege. “I have pride, excitement and hope for these kids that people will really get to see them and their personality.”

Texas has embraced the “Heart Gallery.” Cities such as Houston, Dallas and Austin have joined with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to have similar “Heart Gallery” exhibits in their areas.

The “Heart Gallery of South Texas” will premiere at an opening reception at Jezebelle’s at the Art Center located at 100 Shoreline Blvd. on October 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on display through November 30, in recognition of National Adoption month.