Does youth mentoring need government support?

Recently, the House passed H.R. 1, a continuing resolution that will cut government programs by $100 billion for the rest of this fiscal year. If it becomes law, this drastic measure would impact many youth-focused federal spending streams, including
  • mentoring programs - Mentoring Children of Prisoners, YouthBuild, and Juvenile Justice programs;
  • all national service programs - AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps;
  • job training programs - YouthBuild;
  • educational programs - Teen Pregnancy Prevention Community Grants, Teach for America, and 21st Century Learning Centers;
  • community-based health care;
  • child nutrition programs;
  • after-school programs;
  • and state grants for incarcerated youth.

Since the House passed H.R. 1, focus will now turn toward the Senate. Youth Today reports that, “Who delivers the message will also matter. It will likely fall to champions of youth programs in the Senate to hold the line on any spending.” In the next several weeks, we'll see how the two chambers will reconcile their differences. If you are on any youth mentoring or youth-serving program’s email list, you’ve been encouraged to let your Members of Congress know how important it is to protect programs serving at-risk youth and that current allocations are not even enough to serve this vulnerable population.

Last Friday, February 25, was Save Service Day where youth services advocates were advised to contact their representatives. If you haven’t already, contact the youth/children staff members in your Representatives’ and Senators' Washington, DC, offices. You can use a sample letter or sample talking points as a model (see examples from MENTOR or Big Brothers Big Sisters of America). Hopefully, programs across the country reached out (or will do so quickly) to make a major impact.

Why is this important? While a major criticism of federally-supported programs like Mentoring Children of Prisoners often heard is that grants create funding for a limited amount of time and then leave programs to find resources to sustain what they have built (and support the youth in whose lives they are now entwined), often unsuccessfully, continued federal funding of programs that support children is vital. In our current economic climate, community resources are stretched tight, too – individual donations are down and many state agencies and private foundations have been focusing on meeting basic needs, like shelter, food, and emergency services. When compared with these important issues, youth mentoring programs may seem incidental.

However, those of us who have worked in the field for at least a few years know that it is not. The care and support from a mentor can positively impact a youth’s outlook on their education, family and peer connectedness, and feelings of self-confidence and self-worth, while negatively impacting their involvement in risky behaviors and delinquency. The cost of prevention in dollars is insignificant compared to the costs of academic failure, intervention services, job losses, and community decline. With the support of federal funding streams, mentoring programs can keep doors open to provide transformational relationships to youth who need them most and rally further funding from their communities and networks of supporters.

Please use your voice today to help us continue supporting children and youth in our communities.


claudine said...

If the government will continue cutting budget for the welfare of our youth then there is a big possibility that many of our at-risk youth will become worse in their situation. Yes, the government will save a lot of money at present but this will back unfortunately in the future.

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