The MENTOR Network

Stories of our Mentors

Helping Teenage Boys Find Their Path

Spotlighting Jennifer and Wilbert Barton, Mentor foster parents in South Carolina.We would like to say a huge thank you to Jennifer and Wilbert Barton who have been Mentor foster parents for 16 years! The Bartons work with teenage boys to help them find the right path in life.

“I got a real tender heart for teenagers, specifically boys, because things happen and my husband and I we like to try to deter them from a negative future, try to stop them from going down the wrong track,” said Jennifer. She and her family tragically lost her grandson to violence in 2010 when he was only 16, and that experience has left Jennifer more determined than ever to help children like her grandson not just survive, but thrive.

“I Was a Teenager Once”

Many foster parents are cautious about welcoming teenagers, but Jennifer prefers working with older children.

“Sometimes these teenagers, all they need to know is that somebody really cares about them. What makes it easier for me is realizing that I was a teenager once. You just have to know how to talk to them and how to relate to them and understand where they came from.”

The boys she works with don’t always open up right away, but with patience and respect Jennifer and Wilbert are able to earn their trust and feel rewarded when they confide in them and see them begin to reach their goals.

“I’m not to grown to say, will you forgive me?” Jennifer said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Jennifer has been focused on teaching the boys currently in her home independent living skills including nutrition exercise and cooking, including shrimp vegetable stir-fry! With Jennifer and Wilbert’s support, they are doing well and have supported one another in the difficult quarantine time.

Support that Spans Generations

Jennifer shared that when she was pregnant with her daughter years ago she had hoped for a son. Now she’s had over 20, many of whom still stay in contact, wishing her a happy birthday or introducing their own children. “These young men, young boys, they want to feel like they’ve got a family. They want to feel loved.”