Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $681,818)
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia offers structured, professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring programs that utilize evidence-based practices. The Mentoring for Change in Central Georgia Program will allow BBBS of the Heart of Georgia to build on its past success to offer mentoring dedicated to youth affected by opioid and other drug misuse living in Central Georgia. The program will serve 200 at-risk children ages 6-17 over a three-year grant period, including 50 existing matches. The program will positively impact youth by helping them reduce risky behaviors including drug use, enhance behavioral/personal development (increased self-esteem, improved school behavior and better family relationships), and avoid further involvement with the juvenile justice system. As part of this program BBBS of the Heart of Georgia will enhance its existing programs by providing more structured activities and a greater focus on parent/family engagement, particularly specialized opioid and drug education programming provided by professional drug and mental health partners. The program will provide carefully screened and trained mentors to work with the youth referred by juvenile justice personnel, or schools and parents in rural counties. Members of the community will be recruited to serve as mentors. The program will also invite law enforcement officers to serve as mentors through the Bigs with Badges initiative, to help youth and their families to have positive interactions with law enforcement personnel. Mentors will be offered more extensive training to help them better assist their mentees. Youth and their families are carefully assessed, and then matched with an appropriate mentor for at least 12 months, or one school year. Professional staff will provide support to the mentor and youth with monthly contacts, offering resources and guidance to help the match reach agreed upon goals. Progress towards goals is measured through youth, parent, and volunteer surveys developed by BBBS of America. In an effort to more fully engage the parents and to provide more opportunities for the youth, the program will provide structured activities for the matches including activities held on college campuses, and workshops and activities for the parent/guardians, significantly engaging parents in the program. These enhancements will further deepen the mentoring relationship, resulting in better outcomes for the children served.