(Chicago, IL) – November 17, 2010. Support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making it possible for 1500 more Illinois children of prisoners to have a specially trained Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor.
A $4.5 million three-year HHS grant is enabling the Big Brothers Big Sisters Illinois State Association to provide consistent, enduring, success-focused mentoring services to the children, their custodial parent or guardians, and their volunteer mentors.
“Our organizational framework is in place to begin serving these kids immediately,” said Barbara Cempura, president of the statewide mentoring association.
“This grant will allow us to more than double the 675 mentees currently enrolled in our Mentoring Children of Prisoners programs.
“Studies find when served by Big Brothers Big Sisters, these kids and others who face serious adversity have a greater chance than their peers for having positive relationship interactions and breaking cycles of crime, poverty and school underperformance too often linked to youths in their circumstances.”
The Illinois Department of Corrections estimates 35,525 of the state’s children have at least one parent behind bars. According to the director and founder of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, more than half the children in the juvenile justice system have had a parent in prison.
Big Brothers Big Sisters launched its Mentoring Children of Prisoners or “Amachi” program in 2001, in partnership with Public/Private Ventures, the Program on Religion, Research & Urban Civil Society, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Under the HHS grant, 14 of Illinois’ 16 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies will get mentee and volunteer referrals through relationships with Angel Tree Ministries, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, schools, the mentoring network’s African American fraternity partners, and other community groups and businesses.