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Boys Town Helps Mom, Son Overcome Challenges, Prepare for School

Fenise (left) and her son Jeff with their Boys Town Home Visitor Joliette Saintil (right).

For ​Fenise and her son Jeff, participating in Boys Town South Florida’s Parent-Child Home Program was as much an education for mom as it was for her 2-year-old toddler.

The program is designed to enhance the development of young children when they are 2 or 3 and prepare them to make the transition to school when they reach age 4. A Home Visitor makes frequent visits to the child’s home and uses books and educational toys to guide the child and his or her parents through learning activities.

When Jeff and Fenise first started the program, Jeff was not speaking yet and had behavioral issues such as spitting and biting. The Home Visitor, Joliette Saintil, also was working with several other family members besides Fenise, which led to some inconsistency in the learning activities. An additional challenge was that no one in the home seemed to be reviewing the activities with Jeff between home visits.

But Joliette stayed with it and eventually her efforts began to pay off. Two months into the program, Jeff began repeating words, imitating animal sounds, following directions and fostering a true love for the books and toys used in the program. Joliette’s role-modeling of program activities also had a positive impact on Fenise, who became more actively involved and more loving toward Jeff during the home visits.

At the end of the first year of services, Jeff was able to identify objects, animals and actions in pictures as well as answer questions in two-word phrases.

Everything seemed to be on track for Jeff and Fenise. Then disaster struck.

Fenise and Jeff were involved in a serious car accident, leaving both injured. It t was a month before doctors cleared Jeff to return to normal activities. By then, Fenise and her son had moved in with a family member who had two children of her own. 

As Joliette resumed her home visits with Jeff, she noticed that the toddler didn’t seem to be the same child who was making such good progress when services were disrupted by the accident.  She soon realized Jeff was picking up some undesirable behaviors from the other children in the home.

Fortunately, Joliette was able to voice her concerns to Fenise and convince her that moving Jeff to a new environment would be in his best interests.  A short time later, Fenise and Jeff moved in with Jeff’s grandmother, who had been very supportive of the boy.

As Joliette continued her visits at the grandmother’s home, Jeff made more progress than ever. By the time he graduated from the program at age 4, he was speaking in complete sentences and was able to start conversations on his own, and Joliette was confident he would thrive in preschool and kindergarten. Best of all, Fenise realized how far Jeff had come and how much she had learned about parenting her son and helping him to get ready for school.

Even though Fenise and Jeff faced many setbacks throughout their journey, both have grown in ways they could never have imagined.  And Fenise could not be more grateful for the patience and encouragement Joliette brought to the family and the positive impact Boys Town had on their lives.

The Parent-Child Home Program provided by Boys Town South Florida is coordinated by the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and funded by the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, Florida.