Mentoring program targets children of incarcerated parents – Hamilton Journal News

Seventeen Butler County children with incarcerated parents may have a bright future thanks to a grant from Louis & Louise Nippert Charitable Foundation to provide matching funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Mentoring Children of Prisoners program.

This program is funded primarily by the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, but requires a 25 percent match in funding from another source, said Julie Dichtl, vice president of development at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. She said the foundation has provided $10,710 to match part of the state’s funding of $32,000.

The goal for this program, she said, is to match 17 children of incarcerated parents with an adult mentor and maintain the mentoring relationship for at least 18 months.

Children involved in the program last school year reported they had higher hopes of graduating from high school, attending college and staying away from “risky behaviors,” said Brigitte Gray, vice president of programs. She said 84 percent of the students said they planned to graduate, 71 percent planned to enter college, 64 percent improved in at least two subjects and 98 percent said they would stay away from drugs, violence and skipping school.

For many of these children, it’s too easy for them to follow their parents’ footsteps, Dichtl said. She said some children witness when their parents are arrested and that becomes a way of life.

“It’s all about what is your normal,” she said. “They see their parents go to jail, they can’t hold a job so they get involved in drugs, and substance abuse and that leads to poverty.”

But after meeting with mentors and spending extended periods of time with them, those children realize there is a different route, one that will lead to happiness.

“This opens up to them that this doesn’t have to be their life,” Dichtl said.

Dichtl said a national research study conducted by Public/Private Ventures found that children of prisoners typically grow up in poverty and face increased risk of substance abuse, early pregnancy and high school drop-out. This frequently engenders feelings of anger, depression and shame, and these emotions can manifest themselves through bad behavior at school and at home, she said.

But with the funding, Big Brothers Big Sisters will provide volunteer mentors to children of incarcerated parents. Gray said the mentors and youth will learn and grow together in a one-on-one, trusting relationship, with mentors modeling appropriate behaviors and helping youth develop positive developmental assets.