By Craig Hayes Edited by Shelby Stewart
Kamdon Taylor, pictured above, is a part of the Heart Gallery.
Image: Karen Henry
The Texas foster care system holds 30,000 youth as of 2019, per AdoptUsKids. Within Harris County一the largest county in the state一3,000 juveniles have been left without a family. In tandem with National Adoption Month, a traveling photo exhibit, dubbed Heart Gallery Houston, is increasing the chances of adoption for abused, neglected, and at-risk children.
The Heart Gallery program is a community education and awareness initiative by BEAR (Be A Resource) For CPS Kids, a nonprofit aiding youth in the foster care system. BEAR’s sole focus is finding forever homes for children awaiting adoption, outsourcing help from local businesses, professional photographers, and volunteers.
Houston-based photographer Barbara Perlick has been a long-time volunteer for BEAR and a primary contributor to the initiative, continuing to utilize visual art to enhance the lives of every kid she encounters. “I hope that by telling each of their stories through my photography, potential parents will get a glimpse of a child’s personality and feel more connected based on their common interests,” Perlick says.
Miracle and Santiago Garcia, of the Heart Gallery.
Image: Karen Henry
The artist’s passion extends past her work with the non-profit, as she deliberately gifts each child with a special experience from taking a boy to his first baseball game or setting up a boxing lesson with a famous Houston boxer.
“Volunteering with Heart Gallery Houston has been an incredible experience as I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with these amazing children. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than potentially helping a child find a loving forever home. I encourage fellow philanthropists, creatives, business owners and Houstonians to get involved in any way they can.”
Through the work of many hands, the Gallery displays curated canvas photos in the traveling exhibit capturing each child’s personality and passions, as well as tangible elements for viewers to connect with. This has been increasingly beneficial, particularly for the“hardest-to-place” youth, whose chances for adoption increase from 1% to over 60% in communities with an established Heart Gallery.
“We believe every child deserves the opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a family,” said Merri Hahn, Manager of Heart Gallery Houston. “We are thrilled to have the Heart Gallery initiative present in Houston and hope that it will capture the attention of the city’s philanthropic community and ultimately raise awareness for our mission.”
Heart Gallery Houston is located at 3572 E TC Jester Blvd. Visit the website for more information.