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Dennis and Michelle

Since 1993, seven treatment foster care children have come to live with Dennis and Michelle and their son, Matthew*. Collectively, these children represent some of the most severely mistreated children in our community. They are plagued by the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, physical and sexual abuse, malnutrition and neglect. They arrive in the foster home without trust in others, without expectation for love and without hope for a brighter future. And what happens in that nurturing environment transforms their lives.

To date, the Dennis and Michelle have adopted four of those children: Tony, 16, James, 16, Jeremy, 10, and Kevin, 8. While each child experienced his own difficulties prior to joining Family & Children’s Treatment Foster Care program — ranging from attachment disorders to extreme behavioral problems and delinquency — each has flourished in the foster home.

Tony has developed the self-confidence to explore his creative side and artistic gifts and does so with the unconditional love and acceptance of his adoptive parents. James has begun learning that it’s OK to be successful and has enjoyed that success in sports, show choir and academics, with failing grades becoming B’s and C’s. Jeremy and Kevin, biological brothers, finally feel safe, knowing they will always have good food to eat and a stable home. They have rules, they have structure and they understand that is because they are loved. All have developed trust.

Dennis and Michelle agree the greatest reward in parenting treatment foster care children is seeing them come into their home not knowing how to behave or relate to others, then watching their transformation into young adults with endless possibilities and lofty aspirations.

“You want them to be successful in society. You want them to be productive adults,” says Michelle. “For the older boys, they never thought they would go to college. Now they’re talking about it. They want to be those productive adults.” Speaking of the older boys, the family wishes they could have gotten Tony and James at a younger age, but Michelle says with confidence, “They will be prepared.”

*Names have been changed to protect identity.