Mak­ing a house call

Home visi­ta­tion pro­grams bring aid to vul­ner­a­ble Shelby chil­dren

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Jen­nifer Pig­no­let Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Af­ter three years, Cas­san­dra Ruf­fin knows the first rule of vis­it­ing the Den­nard fam­ily.

“You can­not come into this home with only one book,” Ruf­fin said.

So al­though she’s there specif­i­cally to check in on 3-year-old Ja’Mykal, she ar­rives at the Oakhaven town home with a bag of chil­dren’s books for the boy and his two older si­b­lings.

The three chil­dren sit on the edge of a tan couch and the car­peted liv­ing room floor, tear­ing into a pic­ture book about a bumpy pump­kin and a Dis­ney-themed al­pha­bet pa­per­back. Their mother, 33year-old med­i­cal as­sis­tant Shante Den­nard, helps Ja’Mykal turn the pages and reads aloud to him.

It’s that in­ter­ac­tion that Ruf­fin wants to see be­tween Den­nard and her chil­dren.

Ruf­fin is a par­ent ed­u­ca­tor with Porter-Leath, an early child­hood or­ga­ni­za­tion in Shelby County. She’s known the Women hit streets to turn up heat on Repub­li­cans.

PHO­TOS BY BRAN­DON DAHLBERG

Casan­dra Ruf­fin and Ja-Mykal Den­nard play with a ball dur­ing a home visit.

Shante Den­nard, with her son Ja-Mykal, lis­tens to Cas­san­dra Ruf­fin dur­ing a home visit.

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