THE AMACHI TEXAS PROGRAM
SPONSOR BY; BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS
HAPPY HATS FOR KIDS
TX WOMEN PRISONERS REACHING OUT
TO CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
GO KIDS -
GIVING OFFENDERS' KIDS INCENTIVE
AND DIRECTION TO SUCCEED.
REACHING WITHIN NEWS:
Now Celebrating Their 100th, Girl Scouts Take Beyond Bars Beyond 20
As the Girl Scouts of America celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012, it will concurrently celebrate another landmark occasion: the 20-year anniversary of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) program. The program aims to teach girls leadership skills just as any other Girl Scout program would, but it also includes components that allow the girls to meet with their incarcerated mothers in a facility setting. During these meetings, they engage in targeted workshops that focus on drug and violence prevention, life skills, and many difficult family issues.
In Troop 1500, a newly released film by Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein, members of the eponymous Girl Scout troop and their mothers share their experiences with the program at Hilltop Unit in Gatesville, TX. The film is being screened around the country and has been featured on Independent Lens, a production of the Independent Television Service, which can be found on public television stations in local areas. Copies are also available for home and educational use.
The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program is a partnership established by the Girl Scouts of America and the National Institute of Justice.
Web Posted: 04/25/2006 12:00 AM CDT
Vincent T. Davis
Rose Balderas remembers when her son Isaiah was full of aggression, fueled by circumstances out of his control.
Her family was recovering from the death of a premature baby. And Isaiah's relationship with his father was strained and grew more so after the dad, the only male figure in his life, was imprisoned two years ago.
Adults bombarded him with "Don't cry, be strong, you're the man now," and "Look out for your mom."
At age 8, it was a tall order to take on the responsibility of caring for his mother and a little sister.
Balderas, 30, watched and worried as Isaiah's grades slipped. School administrators told her he was depressed and angry, and she knew it was from worrying about her.
Then a television commercial — Big Brothers, Big Sisters of South Texas looking for adult volunteers and children in need of mentors — made a difference.
The nonprofit group partnered with the state and a local judge to help San Antonio youths such as Isaiah. The goal is to have the child who has a parent in prison avoid following in that person's footsteps.
Now children with parents behind bars have another opportunity, with $3.78 million in state funding for the start of Amachi Texas, a statewide mentoring program for Texas children.
The program is sponsored by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the governor's office, One Star Foundation and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Texas.
A former Philadelphia mayor, the Rev. Dr. Wilson Goode, founded Amachi, a Nigerian word that translates into "Who knows what God has brought us through this child."
Its mission is to stop the cycle of crime from one generation to another by forming relationships between children of imprisoned parents and adult mentors.
Experts say a male influence is crucial for boys like Isaiah.
A study notes that nationally a whopping 40 percent of boys are being raised without their biological fathers. Another study found that high school dropout rates rise significantly for boys when their dads aren't around.
Balderas said Marcus Hughes, Isaiah's "Big Brother," has become a member of the family.
"He's somebody positive," Balderas said of Hughes, a systems administrator at Randolph AFB. "He told him it's OK to be a guy and show emotions. He showed him it's all right to be yourself."
Increasingly, mentors like Hughes are being credited for showing boys that there are alternatives.
"In a lot of ways it changes you in ways you didn't expect," said Hughes, 39. "It teaches you about yourself."
The duo spend three to four hours together every Saturday, playing video games, going to the movies or just hanging out. During the fall, Hughes paces the sideline, watching Isaiah practice football.
Later, he passes on lessons that Isaiah can apply to life. Hughes taught the youngster that football isn't about being a star, but being ready to play.
"In one day," Balderas said, "and a couple of hours they absorb so much."
Judge Linda Penn noted that Big Brothers, Big Sisters can have that type of impact in a child's life. That's one reason she created Communities Against Truancy and for Success while on the bench.
The group is one of several vehicles she uses to have mentors help children be successful in school and beyond.
"I'd like to see the children in our community have goals which include graduating from high school first," Penn said. "Then go to secondary education college, technical school or on to entrepreneurial studies. Then they can become productive members of our society."
Melissa Vela-Williamson, representative for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, said Penn is "really the first person in her position to step up."
"She saw a problem and stepped up to respond to the need in her part of town," Vela-Williamson said.
For more information or to volunteer,
Program will provide mentors to inmate's children
State will use $3.8 million grant to work with private charities.
Friday, March 10, 2006
DALLAS — A new statewide mentoring program aims to stop the cycle of children following their parents into the Texas prison system.
Gov. Rick Perry and other officials on Thursday announced a $3.78 million state grant to launch Amachi Texas, which uses faith-based and secular partners such as Big Brothers Big Sisters to match children of inmates with adult role models.
Ten-year-old Shantill Moore of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas gives Gov. Rick Perry a squeeze during the kickoff of the Amachi Texas program Thursday in Dallas.
"It is a significant day for a lot of children in this country who have one or both parents in jail, or who have been in jail," said former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who created the Amachi program.
"This offers them more hope that they will not end up where their parents are."
Goode, the first black mayor of Philadelphia, grew up while his father was in prison but credits a church pastor and his wife for mentoring him. He was inspired to create Amachi — a Nigerian word meaning "Who knows what God has brought us through this child" — after visiting a Pennsylvania prison in 2001.
There, he spoke with an incarcerated father, son and grandson who met each other for the first time behind bars. Goode, a Baptist minister, was told by the grandson that he also had a son he'd never seen but expected to one day meet him behind bars.
About 7.3 million children in America have a parent in prison, on probation or parole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice.
About 70 percent of them will follow their parents into prison. About 70,000 children in Dallas-Fort Worth have an incarcerated parent, Bureau of Justice statistics show.
Officials said Texas will be the first to take Amachi to a statewide level.
"Amachi Texas will mentor 1,300 children who have a parent behind bars, build infrastructure across the state to reach thousands more in the future and, I am confident, serve as a national model as to what can be accomplished when caring adults take the time to be a mentor," Perry said.
The program, headquartered in Arlington, is a partnership between the governor's office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the One Star Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters.