Federal Grant to Give 1500 Illinois Prisoners’ Kids Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentors
SPRINGFIELD, IL, (Nov. 16, 2010) – Support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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.
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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.
"The Big Brothers Big Sisters staff-supported mentors make positive impacts on the lives of Illinois children facing adversity every day. With these new Federal funds, Big Brothers Big Sisters will be able to ensure goal-focused, quality, mentoring relationships for even more children of prisoners in Illinois," said Cristal Thomas, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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. Amachi is a West African word that means, "Who knows but what God has brought us through this child."
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 state Department of Children and Family Services, schools, the mentoring network’s African American fraternity partners, and other community groups and businesses.
The first-of- its- kind grant to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Illinois State Association requires the organization to raise matching dollars as its agencies enroll and serve 500 new mentoring matches during each of the three funding years. The state association will administer the grant from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties will be responsible for financial administration. This will centralize funds distribution and the management and tracking of data reported by agencies, such as frequency and type of match activities; mentees’ progress in and out of school; staff support services delivered; volunteer training, and family support required. The participating Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are strategically located to serve more than 80 percent of the counties in the state from the large urban areas of Chicago and Belleville to Peoria, Rockford, and rural areas like Carbondale, Olney and Charleston. The Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies that will deliver services under the grant include:
• Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois (Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Greene, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Randolph , St. Clair & Washington counties)
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