THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS
100TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16, 2004
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Thank you so much, Joe. I'm delighted to be here today, as Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is a privilege to participate in this historic event marking a century of helping our nation's young people grow to be confident, caring, contributing members of our society.
I want to thank all of you here today, as well as all the affiliates who are participating in this event through satellite and Internet hookups, on the tremendous work you do every day. You are truly making a positive difference in the lives of young people throughout our nation, and helping to build a better future for all Americans.
I understand that this Centennial Celebration brings together all those who play a role in supporting BBBS B staff, volunteers, "Bigs," "Littles," board members, partners, families, friends, and others to celebrate this organization's tremendous accomplishments over the last century, along with today's initiatives.
Bob Flores, the Administrator of our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, told me about your Nationwide Centennial search that will reunite past mentors with their former mentees. And I thought, what a wonderful idea, to see the reunion of a "little" with his or her "big" from 40 or more years ago, especially when a number of those "littles" are now "bigs" themselves, carrying on the tradition of caring.
The Office of Justice Programs has supported mentoring programs for many years because we recognize the impact that a caring older person can have on the life of an at-risk child. As this audience knows as well as anyone, experts tell us that the most critical element in a child's life is a strong relationship with a caring adult.
But merely knowing this is not enough. At the Office of Justice Programs, we feel strongly about the need to evaluate the actual impact of initiatives intended to improve lives. It is critical that we know whether a particular effort is making a positive difference in the life of a child. Some of the best-intentioned efforts have no positive effect - and some can actually do harm to young lives. So we focus on scientific analysis of actual results.
And Big Brothers Big Sisters is in the top tier of effective programs. An evaluation found that youth mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters were 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol than other young people. The study also found that young people with a mentor were one-third less likely to act out aggressively with others and were truant about half as often as other youth.
The Office of Justice Programs, primarily through our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has been, and continues to be, a supporter of mentoring, and of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Over the years, we have also funded research projects to evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring.
The Blueprints for Violence Prevention research program sponsored by the University of Colorado -- with considerable support from OJJDP - has rigorously assessed the effectiveness of more than 600 delinquency prevention programs. It has found only 11 that it rates highly effective, and one of those 11 is Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Blueprints program has demonstrated that your mentoring model works.
To examine further what we know about mentoring, and to advance such efforts, last year, I convened a two-day working group meeting called "Building on Success: Relationships That Foster and Sustain Youth Mentoring."
Representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters, MENTOR, and many others came together to help us learn how to encourage the growth of additional mentoring efforts.
We learned several things from this working group meeting. First the good things:
We also found some needs in this area, including:
We are currently engaged in a long-term project with members of the scientific community, to expand the body of scientific knowledge in this area.
We're using what we've learned to inform and build on our mentoring initiatives, including continued support for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Since 1998, we have invested almost $17.5 million to support Big Brothers Big Sisters and its affiliates. And we're in the process of awarding an additional $6 million, further to enhance your critical work.
As I mentioned, research has shown that these are tax dollars well invested. Further proof of the soundness of this investment comes from Forbes magazine, which has named Big Brothers Big Sisters one of the top 10 non-profit organizations in the United States. That's very impressive, and an achievement of which you should all be extremely proud.
Building on the results from the past seven years, this new funding will allow Big Brothers Big Sisters and its affiliates to continue to expand your collective capacity to fulfill your pledge to serve one million children every year. Over the last five years, in particular, our funding has helped Big Brothers Big Sisters develop and implement a series of successful practices and programs that have been established throughout its nationwide network of 462 affiliates.
Our long-term goal is to help you build a national infrastructure that will support local affiliates in the substantial growth called for in the Big Brothers Big Sisters strategic plan, as well as to develop, collect, and disseminate standards and best practices across the organization.
At OJP, we work very closely with Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters. Our OJJDP staff speaks to the national office virtually every day, and I know how much they appreciate having Michael Hackman as our federal liaison. He does an excellent job in helping us work with your regional offices and in coordinating efforts with other national organizations and federal agencies.
I know that a significant amount of the funding we provide is passed through headquarters to support Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates throughout the country. I'm pleased that these funds are helping to increase the number of affiliates, as well as the number of children served. And we at the Department of Justice are particularly gratified that you've expanded your efforts to institute mentoring in partnership with others in the community, including schools, the faith-based community, and other organizations.
I am personally delighted to see that you're reaching out to one particular group of children who are in desperate need of positive adult guidance - the children of incarcerated parents. I'm well aware of the Amachi model, championed by its charismatic and committed founder, Dr. Wilson Goode, on which you've based this effort.
As you know, we're seeing some very positive results from this approach. As Dr. Goode frequently says, we cannot claim to be doing our job for children if we are leaving this group of young people behind. So, bless you for your selflessness in working with these children, so in need of your help.
I'll also be interested to see the results of the expansion of the Hispanic Mentoring Model beyond Atlanta, where it was developed, to 10 new pilot sites. As you probably know, this effort aims to increase the number of Hispanic matches by 50 to 150 or more during the 18-month demonstration period.
The Hispanic Mentoring Model helps agencies maximize their use of an emerging national resource, the large and varied Hispanic population, which has grown rapidly over the last decade. As you may know, Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S. - and it is predicted that, not too many years in the future, Hispanics may actually become a majority of our population. So I applaud Big Brothers Big Sisters for having the foresight to address the growing need for Hispanic mentors.
It's critical that we reach out to encourage mentoring among adults. As you well know, mentoring programs across the country maintain long lists of children waiting to be matched with an adult mentor. These waiting lists contain the names of not just 10 or 20 kids, but in some cases, hundreds of children who are awaiting a mentor. Often, a year or more passes before a successful match can be made.
In response to this need to recruit more adults as mentors, the Office of Justice Programs, through our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recently launched a national mentor recruitment campaign with the National Network of Youth Ministries.
This campaign has the capacity to reach more than 100,000 churches, to recruit adult volunteers from these congregations to mentor at-risk youth in their communities B regardless of whether the youth attend any church. We hope that this effort will go a long way toward filling the significant recruitment gap that still exists, and that many hundreds of thousands of children will benefit as a result.
I want to thank not only Gail Manza and her staff at MENTOR for partnering with OJP to help develop this recruitment campaign, but also Big Brothers Big Sisters of America for the use of your e-card mentor recruitment tool. You can learn more about this new effort by logging on to www.mentoryouth.com.
A few more words on funding: particularly, how the federal government partners with state government to fund and administer youth mentoring programs.
I first have to tell you that our discretionary - or direct - funding is extremely limited. The majority of OJP funds are awarded through formula grants to state governments, which then set priorities and allocate funds within that state. In Fiscal Year 2003, the Office of Justice Programs awarded almost $4 billion to states and localities to assist with criminal justice activities. Thousands of different state and local programs compete for these limited federal dollars.
The best advice I can offer you, if you're looking for federal funding, is to call or make an appointment to speak to the grant contact at your state agency that administers OJP funding.
To make this easier for you, the OJP Web-site has a map with the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five territories. Simply click on your jurisdiction and you'll see a comprehensive listing of exactly whom to call.
The state contact can provide information about potential funding, and, perhaps just as important in view of the limited funding available, about how you might link with other local programs to provide increased services to the "Bigs" and "Littles" involved in your program. And always remember that federal funding is only a leveraging tool - it cannot sustain you for the long term.
We strongly encourage these community collaborations, as the best way to avoid duplication and to make the most of the funding available. If you have, for example, a Weed and Seed site in your community, we encourage you to partner with their mentoring efforts, if you have not already done so.
Other funding is available for mentoring as well, in particular through my colleagues at the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. In fact, President Bush, after seeing Dr. Goode's Amachi program at work, saw to it that the Department of Health and Human Services got $50 million in its budget to fund mentoring of the children of incarcerated parents in communities across the country. I'm sure Harry Wilson will talk more about this in his remarks.
Theodore Roosevelt once said. "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
That is the secret to the success of BBBS. You don't have to change the world - but, doing what you can, with what you have, where you are, each of you can change one young life for the better…and that's the power of one.
I want to thank all of you again for all you are doing to improve the lives of America's youth. As Attorney General John Ashcroft has frequently said, children may make up only 25 percent of our population, but they make up 100 percent of our future. There can be no worthier cause than the future of our children. Thank you for your caring, your commitment, and your dedication to the children of America.