The Center for Societal Impact (CSI), the newest research and scholarly center within the Steve Hicks School of Social Work (SHS), has received funding to connect more children to families for adoption. Funding the Center and its mission was a legislative priority for the 88th Texas Legislative Session, which recently approved $12 million as part of the 2024-2025 General Appropriations Act.
A new program with CSI, the Heart Galleries of Texas, will utilize the funding to create a network that promotes awareness and offers support for adoptive parent recruitment as well as placement of children and adolescents with families in forever homes. Each day, more than 6,000 children in the Texas foster care system are waiting for adoption. Through a statewide expansion, Heart Galleries of Texas will generate better outcomes for the hardest cases, finding homes for teens, sibling groups, and medically fragile children.
“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to lead in this invaluable work,” said Allan Cole, dean of the SHS and founding director of CSI. “We have created excellent momentum for this Center, which directly serves UT’s strategic vision to become the world’s most impactful public research university. I deeply appreciate the resources provided by Governor Abbott and our Legislature to advance how we help serve children and families in Texas.”
CSI aligns interdisciplinary efforts in research and instruction with partnerships to solve critical problems and create a positive change in affordable housing and homelessness, aging, disability, community development, foster care and adoption, and challenges and opportunities for medical and mental health. CSI will also continue seeking opportunities to collaborate with other SHS Institutes and Centers, as well as with external agency partners, to enhance the public good.
Dean Cole notes that CSI’s partnership with SHS’s Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing (TXICFW), led by Monica Faulkner, Ph.D., MSW, will be key to the success of this effort. TXICFW’s focus on the well-being and resilience of children, families, and the people who serve them will offer research-oriented collaboration that will change lives.
As part of this new opportunity, CSI welcomes Kori Gough, Heart Galleries of Texas Director, to its team of partners. Kori is a celebrated social worker whose longtime work in the foster care space has helped countless children across the state. She will be collaborating alongside Jeanette Davidson, Ph.D., the Center’s inaugural director.
“Our mission is clear – we are designing solutions for our society’s toughest challenges,” Davidson said. “With this funding, we can immediately impact the lives of vulnerable children. Our programs can now reach a wider set of needs and can create and strengthen better lives for Texas families throughout the state.”