NY’s Children of Promise, a Mentoring Collaborative in New York State, is Awarded $4.5 Million to Serve Children of the Incarcerated

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New York’s Children of Promise (NYCP), a collaborative effort of 15 Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) agencies throughout the State of New York, has been awarded $4.5 million dollars in federal funding by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families. Under this grant, NYCP will provide mentoring services to 1500 children of prisoners over the next 3 years, who reside in more than 41 counties across New York State.

New York’s Children of Promise (NYCP), a collaborative effort of 15 Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) agencies throughout the State of New York, has been awarded $4.5 million dollars in federal funding by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families. Under this grant, NYCP will provide mentoring services to 1500 children of prisoners over the next 3 years, who reside in more than 41 counties across New York State. As a part of the national movement to utilize mentoring as an effective means to help prevent an intergenerational cycle of vulnerability to incarceration, Big Brothers Big Sisters accepts the call to action. "The work that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ulster County is doing on behalf of these children is critically important," said New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who wrote a letter in support of the grant. "These mentoring services will dramatically improve the lives of these young people who happen to have parents who are in prison. I am so proud to support this funding moving forward."

Since 2004, BBBS of Ulster County has assumed administrative lead for a flourishing multi-site, multi-agency initiative to serve children of incarcerated parents. The birth of what is now a statewide project began with the pioneer partnership among three Hudson Valley affiliate agencies: BBBS of Ulster, Dutchess, and Orange Counties. “The streamlined practices and evidence-based model of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has given us all that we’ve needed in order to become a united front on behalf of the children in New York State.” said Cynthia Graham, Executive Director of New York’s Children of Promise. “Beyond the commitment to become involved, it has been the comradery, sharing of resources, and willingness to think outside of the box that has compelled NYCP into a season of growth and opportunity. In addition to the teamwork amongst BBBS affiliates, is the range of invaluable support gained through partnerships with numerous local businesses, human service agencies, community and faith-based organizations. Together we will continue to positively impact the lives of children of prisoners in New York State.”

Key amongst statewide partnerships is the collaboration between Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates and the NYS Department of Correctional Services, in a joint effort to identify and engage eligible children and families. BBBS staff have been welcomed into multiple correctional facilities throughout New York State, to educate incarcerated parents about the benefits of mentoring, and how they can refer their child to the program. “Imprisoned parents often feel stripped of all parental rights and authority; NYCP strives to empower these mothers and fathers with the opportunity to extend support to their children by way of a caring adult mentor,” says Cynthia Graham. “Volunteer mentors are not a replacement for an absent parent, but rather serve as an additional supportive adult in a child’s life.”

In a prepared statement, New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYS DOCS) Commissioner Brian Fischer, extends his continued support: “The kind of role modeling and positive support adult mentors in the community provide to the children of offenders are invaluable in helping each child understand and work through issues related to the incarceration of a parent. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant will pay dividends in a number of important ways: by helping these children make the right choices in life while coming to terms with a parent who is incarcerated; and by improving relationships between incarcerated parents and their children, thus improving the offenders’ chances to make the right choices after their release from prison and thereby reducing recidivism. We fully support and appreciate the efforts of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Ulster County and New York State Mentoring Children of Promise in partnering with the DOCS, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for recognizing the importance of funding this important program and enabling us to continue this effective collaboration.”

Over the next three years, BBBS agencies throughout NYS will enroll children (“Littles”) with an incarcerated parent from age four to 18. Volunteer adult mentors (“Bigs”) are recruited, screened, trained, and professionally supported by BBBS staff, to provide long-term friendship-based mentoring to these children. The program seeks a minimum of a one year commitment from volunteer mentors.

BBBS agencies will enhance their support to families by further assessing the needs of youth and caregivers in order to effectively coordinate and monitor supplemental services within the mentoring organization, or by way of referrals to formal linkages with external community resources. “NYCP accepts the challenge of bringing to the forefront the specific needs of a once (invisible) population.” said Cynthia Graham “We will continue to serve the children, serve them well, serve as many as possible without compromising the quality of services rendered.”

Founded in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States with 400 affiliate agencies. The 15 BBBS agencies participating under this Mentoring Children of Prisoners initiative include BBBS of Ulster County, BBBS of Dutchess County, BBBS of New York City, BBBS of Orange County, Catholic Charities BBBS of Brooklyn Queens, BBBS of Long Island, BBBS Family Services of Westchester, BBBS of the Capital Region, BBBS of Rockland County, BBBS of Greater Rochester, BBBS of Onondaga County, BBBS of the Southern Adirondacks, BBBS of the North Country, BBBS of Chenango County, BBBS of Central Southern Tier.

If you are interested in volunteering, or would like more information, please call 1-866-766-2447 or visit our website at http://www.whichoneareyou.org.

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Rachel Baldelli
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