Amber, 13, draws a mermaid. Lutheran Adoption Service sponsored Budsies, which brings imaginary friends to life as stuffed toys. (Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Troy— Keeley loves to read and write. She’s an artist. She hopes to be a nurse one day. And she’s still looking for her forever family.
The 16-year-old has been in foster care with Lutheran Adoption Service since February 2013, and she knows, at her age, the chances of being adopted into a family are slim.
“I’m just hoping for the best,” the pensive and polite teenager said. “I’ll take whatever God gives me.”
In Metro Detroit, when a child is removed from an environment of domestic violence and placed into the state’s foster system, there’s a good chance he or she will receive some kind of assistance from Lutheran Adoption Service,which calls itself Michigan’s largest full-service private adoption agency.
“They come here for reasons of abuse and neglect, and you try everything you can to bring the families back together,” said Lena Wilson, director of Lutheran Adoption Service, a Troy-basedbranch of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.
“But at some point, that’s not possible.”
About 500 children are in the program, which facilitated 464 adoptions through 10 offices statewide last year.
Officials try to adopt out children to relatives and keep siblings together, but in Keeley’s case she was removed from her home where her sister, who is a year older, was her main caregiver.
She no longer sees her family.
“These kids love their parents. It’s a loss,” said Wilson. “Their perspective is very difficult to understand for people who come in from the outside.”
On Thursday, some of the children who have been up for adoption the longest were invited to participate in an event with Budsies, a Lake Worth, Florida-based company that brings children’s imaginary friends to life as stuffed animals.
“Our kids experience a lot of losses, so we thought it would be an interesting idea for them to create a friend they could take with them on their journey,” said Wilson.
Budsies creates custom stuffed toys for anyone, although the company typically charges $69 for each. The company donated the ones for the children at the event in Troy.
Through the magic of crayons, markers and children’s imaginations, blank pieces of paper or templates of animals and characters were transformed.
Keeley drew a lifelike sloth, one of her favorite animals. Ashley, 13, came up with a very close imitation of Stewie from the TV show “Family Guy.” Sally, 9, decided she wanted a colorful rose.
Sisters My’Asia, 12, and Honesty, 9, each went with bunnies, but they customized them.
My’Asia had a brown, gray and black bunny. Honesty created a purple camouflage bunny with a long purple beard. She named him Papa Phil, after her favorite character from her favorite TV show, “Duck Dynasty.”
The two girls went into foster care from a home where they had five sisters and two brothers. They don’t live together anymore but, said My’Asia, they do get to visit each other once in a while.
“I guess we’re just waiting to get adopted,” said My’Asia.