Betty and Raymond Mitchell were comfortably ensconced in a senior living community in the Virginia Park neighborhood. Then the unsettling news arrived about their 14-year-old grandson, DJ.
He was abandoned and forlorn – relegated to the foster care system in Texas by a parent who no longer wanted him. To rescue DJ, the Mitchells would need a place where they could adopt him and tend to his special needs. They would need a home.
The Mitchells found a good, affordable house in the Berg-Lasher neighborhood and applied for a mortgage with Huntington Bank. Their realtor suggested that they also contact Southwest Solutions’ Homeownership Assistance Team (HAT) for help. The team recommended that the couple complete a homebuyer education course offered through the organization to become eligible for homebuyer incentive programs.
The Mitchells then worked with HAT counselor Jaileene Tavarez to qualify for Detroit HomeLIFT, which provides $15,000 in down payment assistance to low to moderate income homebuyers. The couple’s HomeLIFT application was processed by Laltsha Cunningham with Southwest Solutions’ mortgage lending program.
Betty and Raymond moved into their new home in early May. They have been working hard to get things in order, spruce up the yard, and make the house their own, as well as comply with all the “home study” stipulations so they can adopt DJ. Betty has also been continuing her training to get the requisite certifications to care for her grandson.
DJ’s mother was Betty’s only daughter, Camille. Betty also had three sons with her previous husband, who passed away. Camille and her husband had three children. DJ was the youngest. He was born with hydrocephalus, and doctors implanted a shunt to drain excess fluid and relieve pressure on his brain. DJ was only two years old when his mother died of complications from diabetes. Betty took in DJ’s two teen siblings, but DJ’s father insisted on keeping him, and then moved to Texas, severing all ties and communication with Betty’s family.
Last year, DJ’s father placed him in the foster care system in Texas. DJ’s siblings, who now live in Atlanta, managed to find out about it and notified Betty. Working together, they were able to locate DJ, through a sympathetic caseworker in the foster care system, and then all three went to visit him in September.
“DJ appeared thin and withdrawn and it was evident that he’d suffered a lot,” Betty said. “He recognized his sister right away and then warmed to his brother and me. When I asked him if he wanted to come back to Detroit and live with my husband Raymond and me, his spirit brightened and he smiled yes.”
Upon her return, Betty started working with Orchard Children’s Services to help arrange DJ’s eventual adoption. She made another trip to see DJ in November and their bond became stronger.
“I know that DJ has had a very hard life and he has many problems that will need to be addressed,” Betty said. “But when he is back with us and he knows he is loved and protected, he will be good. He has a big family here and we will take good care of him.”
DJ will be starting high school this fall. The Mitchells hope, if all goes well, that DJ will be with them before the new school year begins. They are also planning a big celebration, with lots of extended family, when DJ arrives.
“I can’t wait for DJ to move in,” Betty said. “Our home will then be complete.”
This story was also published by Detroit Unspun