- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - A traveling exhibit seeks to highlight children in Oakland County who are seeking permanent families by giving depth to their stories.

Melissa Parks, an art teacher at Detroit Country Day School, started the Art & Soul of Oakland County exhibit after being inspired by a similar exhibit in Rhode Island, the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/2b67tc5 ) reported. The exhibit next opens at the Pontiac Creative Arts Center on Friday.

“When people become connected to a story, they can’t unlearn what they learn,” Parks said. “The hope is, as they learn about these children, that these stories stay with them. And that they are moved to action, whatever that action might be.”

Parks’ goal is to find a home for each of the nine children and teenagers profiled in the exhibit. To create the exhibit, she connected with Southfield-based nonprofit Orchards Children’s Services, which has organized more than 3,000 adoptions.

The organization’s president and CEO, Michael Williams, said it chose the children throughout metro Detroit because they’d been seeking adoptive parents for more than a year and their diversity reflected that of the state.

“Sometimes I feel that nobody is aware that children are available,” said Jane Cullen, a program manager at Orchards Children’s Services. “We’ve heard of foster care. … but we don’t as a community always understand the level of need out of there.”

Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange said more than 3,000 children in the state look for a permanent home every year. The service runs a similar photo exhibit, called the Heart Gallery, which features 120 children and teens in more than 50 photographs.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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