Mentors Inspire Change
Understanding the Difficulties Children Face
Growing up can be challenging. For kids in foster care, it can be even harder.
Foster parents for more than 20 years, Melvin and Jessica Dennis are often called upon to help teens who may have experienced trauma and have significant emotional and behavioral challenges. Jessica and Melvin see beyond that.
“Jessica and Mel see kids as individuals,” explains Christine O’Brien, Clinical Lead at Pennsylvania MENTOR. “They understand that a child is more than their behaviors and are accepting and compassionate about the difficulties these kids face.”
Even during an emotional outburst, Jessica and Melvin will look beyond the child’s behavior and try to understand what the underlying issue is. Are they acting out because they’re disappointed? Overwhelmed? Hurt by something a classmate said to them? Jessica and Melvin find a way to connect with the child. They listen. They don’t judge. And that helps the child heal.
“I like to help people,” says Jessica. “I can’t imagine how it feels not being with parents and family.”
Melvin and Jessica attribute their immense capacity to care for others with such selflessness to the way they were raised.
“Our kids are like that, too,” says Jessica, proudly, of their daughter and two sons, one of whom they adopted more than 20 years ago.
Compassion, Patience and Love
“In addition to providing a safe, empathetic and loving environment for the children and adolescents they welcome into their home, Jessica and Melvin inspire hope in everyone who is fortunate enough to work with them,” says Sarah Buonarota, program coordinator at Pennsylvania MENTOR.
“The positive changes that occur in the kids welcomed into their home is astounding.”
Compassion, patience and love guide their ability to support youth who struggle with emotional and behavioral challenges. And the difference they have made can be seen in the kids they’ve helped over the years. Many have been able to heal and move forward, reuniting with their biological families or successfully moving onto adulthood.