Grant Enables UMM to Recruit Mentors for Children of Incarcerated

Date Posted: 3/17/2011

A $7,300 grant from the Human Relations Day offering will enable the General Commission on United Methodist Men to continue its effort to recruit adults to serve as mentors of children of incarcerated parents through the Amachi program of Big Brothers – Big Sisters.

In 2010, the commission led facilitation meetings in 12 annual conferences; the sessions led to 41 adults agreeing to serve as mentors through the Amachi program. Those annual conferences continue to recruit persons who are willing to spend at least one hour a week with these children.

“Amachi” is a Nigerian Ibo word that means “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child.”  The program was created by the Rev. Dr. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia, following a visit to a prison where he found a grandfather, father and son in prison at the same time.

The Human Relations Day grant, awarded by the General Board of Church and Society, will enable the commission to introduce or expand the Amachi program in Denver, San Diego, Phoenix, Kansas City, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City or Tulsa.

The Need

A study by the Tennessee Department of Corrections found that there is a 50 – 70 percent chance that a child will follow their incarcerated parents into a life of crime. Over 18,000 children under the age of 18 in Tennessee were touched by the incarceration of a parent.

The Tennessee study found that the introduction of an adult mentor for just one hour a week significantly reduced negative behavior. School grades improved and the child’s self image was enhanced

In another study authorized by Big Brothers Big Sisters, researchers examined the lives of 1,000 10- to 16-year-olds who applied for mentors. More than 60 percent of them were boys; more than half were members of minority groups, mostly African American.

Over 80 percent came from impoverished families, approximately 40 percent were from homes with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, and almost all were being raised by a single parent. Half of these young people were matched with a mentor, while the rest stayed on the waiting list.

Eighteen months later, the differences between the two groups were surprising. Weekly meetings with a mentor for a year:

•    Reduced first-time drug use by almost half
•    Reduced first-time alcohol use by a third
•    Cut school absenteeism by half
•    Improved parental and peer relationships
•    Gave the youth confidence in doing their school work.

Expectations

Amachi mentors meet weekly with a child who has been carefully matched with them; they often live and worship in the same neighborhoods as the children. Mentors agree to make one visit every week or every other week for at least one hour. Volunteers are expected to continue for at least one year.

Larry Coppock, project coordinator, has served as a big brother to Calvin, a 14-year-old whose father has been incarcerated. He invites Calvin into his home and has taken him to various sporting events including a football camp. He also took Calvin to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. The experiences have enriched both of their lives.

Coppock helped establish Amachi coordinators in the Texas, Louisiana, Detroit, Holston, California-Pacific, Rio Grande, Memphis, Baltimore-Washington, Kentucky, Memphis North Texas and Tennessee Annual Conferences.

Persons who wish to become Amachi volunteers do not have to be in a conference where there is an Amachi coordinator. Contact Coppock for information (LCoppock@gcumm.org).

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