Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Department of Justice. I'd like to thank all of you for joining us in launching this important national effort. I'm Deborah Daniels, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. I'm delighted to be here this afternoon as we jointly launch the National Network of Youth Ministries' National Mentoring Recruitment Campaign on behalf of at-risk children and their families - a new initiative to increase the number of adult mentors for at-risk youth.

Experts tell us that the most critical element in a child's life is a strong relationship with a caring adult. An evaluation of one mentoring effort, Big Brothers Big Sisters, found that mentored youth were 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol. The study also found that young people in the mentoring program were one-third less likely to act out aggressively with others and were truant about half as much as other youth.

Unfortunately, far too many children today need a mentor, but don't have one. The National Mentoring Recruitment Campaign we are launching today is designed to increase the number of adults serving as mentors for children in need of guidance and support.

Our new Campaign will recruit adult mentors through the approximately 100,000 churches and 250,000 adult youth workers involved with the National Network of Youth Ministries.

In proclaiming this past January as National Mentoring Month, President Bush noted the importance of mentoring. "Mentoring," he said, "reflects the great strength of America: the heart and soul of the American people. During National Mentoring Month, we recognize the dedicated individuals who volunteer their time to mentor young people, and we encourage more citizens to give back to their communities as mentors."

In Fiscal Year 2004, with the President's support, mentoring received an historic increase in federal funding of one hundred million dollars.

We at the Office of Justice Programs feel strongly about our responsibility to identify and support effective programs that truly make a positive difference in the quality of life of people in this country. One of our most promising efforts, proven to be effective in reducing delinquency and other problems among young people, is our support of mentoring programs. These efforts are being led by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. OJJDP has a proud history of working to prevent delinquency and to enrich the quality of children's lives.

At the Department of Justice, we are responding to the President's call for more adults to volunteer to mentor our nation's at-risk youth through the national recruitment effort we are launching today.

Behind this Campaign is the leadership of Paul Fleischmann and Doug Tegner, the President and Executive Director, respectively, of the National Network of Youth Ministries. And I'd like to thank them for their efforts.

I am also pleased to welcome the executives from the cooperating ministries of the Network who are also with us. Together, the Department of Justice and the Network developed the recruitment strategy and referral process to be undertaken with coordinating ministries, affinity networks, and local Network coordinators.

Through funding provided by the Department of Justice, the Network will be able to significantly increase its capacity to recruit and refer large numbers of adults from among, and in partnership with, its 72 national Cooperating Ministries organizations and 650 local Network Affiliates in cities and towns across America.

The 250,000 church-based youth worker members of the Network will serve as a significant pool of potential recruiters as we work together to increase the number of caring adults willing to mentor a child or teenager in a local school, neighborhood, or institution.

Thanks to all of you for all you are doing, and will be doing, through your new National Mentoring Recruitment Campaign to protect our nation's most precious resource B our children.

As the Attorney General has frequently said, children may make up only 25 percent of our population - but they make up 100 percent of our future. There is no worthier cause than the future of our children. Thank you for your caring, your commitment, and your dedication to the children of America.