January | February 2017

Stakeholder Corner: OJJDP Award Helps Girls Inc., Expand Mentoring for

At-Risk Girls

By Judy VredenburghGirls inc. logo

Today, girls and young women across the country continue to face profound challenges. One in six girls attending public high school will not graduate, according to 2011–12 data from the Education Department’s Digest of Education Statistics. An OJJDP-sponsored survey conducted in 2011 found that more than 22 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 had experienced sexual victimization in the past year. And, although the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is at an historic low, we continue to have the highest rate among western industrialized countries.

The violence, trauma, poverty, and racial, ethnic, and gender bias that many girls experience can directly lead to their involvement in the juvenile justice system. In response to the need, Girls Inc., is expanding its capacity to help more girls cope with violence and trauma in their world.

Building on 30 years of mentoring experience supporting at-risk girls, Girls Inc., has launched its Bold Futures Mentoring Program with a $2 million grant through OJJDP’s Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative. Over the 2-year grant period, Girls Inc., will provide approximately 1,800 girls—ages 9 to 14—trauma-informed, weekly group mentoring sessions to strengthen their coping skills, reduce risk factors, minimize contact with the juvenile justice system, and increase family engagement. Girls Inc., will offer the program at 15 of its locations in high-need communities across 12 states.

The funding comes at a crucial time. OJJDP’s data show that, although juvenile arrest and residential placement rates have decreased for boys and girls since the 1990s, girls make up a larger share of the juvenile justice population today than in the past. In 1992, one in five juveniles (20 percent) arrested was a girl; by 2014, that proportion had grown to nearly one in three (29 percent). Girls of color continue to be disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system.

Through the Bold Futures Mentoring Program, Girls Inc., aims to equip girls with the guidance, support, and skills to be engaged in school; to build healthy relationships with peers and family; to reduce negative and high-risk behaviors; and to heal from traumatic experiences. In the long term, Bold Futures will become a model program implemented across the larger Girls Inc., network and will be shared with peer organizations to strengthen juvenile justice prevention efforts nationwide.


To learn more about Girls Inc., and its initiatives, visit the program’s website.

Access OJJDP’s Girls and the Juvenile Justice System policy guidance online.

Judy Vredenburgh is president and CEO of Girls Inc. She has led the organization since 2010. Points of view or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.