Children of Promise Mentoring Programs:
“It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” – Frederick Douglas
Because it is easier to build strong children than repair broken adults, the Community Corrections Improvement Association has been proactively reaching out to assist at-risk and high risk youth as part of an overall comprehensive approach to creating safe communities. These mentoring programs are part of an evidence-based approach to provide these youth with the services, opportunities and supports they need to be prepared for productive and healthy adulthood. The programs link youth with healthy adult role models with the common goal of increasing the youths’ assets, while helping them cope with risk and overcome personal and external challenges posed by their environment. For a brief overview of each program:
One-on-One Mentoring Program (Linn and Johnson counties)
Certified by the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, this program supports the creation and maintenance of quality, lasting one-on-one mentoring relationships between high risk children, age 4-18, who have a parent involved in the correctional system and caring, well-trained adult mentors. The mentors meet with the youth for a minimum of 4 hours per month for a period of at least one year. The mentor provides a trusted, consistent adult presence in the youths’ lives, helping them to identify their strengths and problem solve. The mentor participates in a variety of activities with their mentees to expand their knowledge of community resources and safe, healthy ways to spend unstructured time. The youths’ families are engaged in the mentoring process through an initial interview, as well as monthly input, and involvement in group activities.
Youth Leadership Program (Linn and Johnson counties)
This program provides at-risk middle and high school youth with the opportunity to belong to a community that supports positive social norms within the safe and structured environment of a small group lead by healthy adult role models, along with a summer enrichment program provided in partnership with the University of Iowa Athletic program. Youth are targeted for participation because they have emerging needs (school or family challenges) combined with leadership potential. Programming focuses on risky behavior prevention, community stewardship, social skill development, and productive and healthy use of unsupervised and unstructured time. High school youth also have the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Resiliency Program (a SAMSHA Model Program that enhances the youths’ resiliency while preventing involvement in substance abuse and violence.) A family strengthening component encourages their families to participate in regularly scheduled events.
Foster Grandparent Program (Linn, Johnson and Jones counties)
The Foster Grandparent Program matches adults 55+ that meet financial need guidelines with high-risk youth in schools and daycare settings. The focus of the mentoring relationship is on increasing reading participation and proficiency, as well as social skill development. The benefit to the community is two-fold, providing the senior citizens with a caring community, small income, and opportunity to be needed, while at the same time giving the youth an additional supportive relationship and increased opportunities for social skill building and reading development.
Children of Promise is Changing Lives:
Refer to the iowachildrenofpromise.org website for more detailed information on each program and their outcomes. Overall, youth that participate in the programs decrease: school behavior referrals and unexcused school absences.
All three programs work within the framework of the greater community, and in cooperation with families, schools, and daycares to provide youth with the support and resources they need to enter adulthood healthy, connected and ready for school, work and life.
Partnership for Safe Families
Partnership for Safe Families (PSF) is a community wide effort in Linn County to support families and prevent child abuse/neglect and domestic violence. PSF brings families, neighbors, and professionals together to solve family problems, identify family strengths, and prevent family violence. Partnership for Safe Families is a collaboration between many public and private agencies, as well as other professionals and trained volunteers to link families to community resources.
Home to Stay
Lundby Townhomes in conjunction with the “Home to Stay Program” is a 24-unit supportive low-income housing complex targeting families who have a member re-entering the community from a correctional facility, or with a criminal record that excludes them from other low-income housing. Six apartments will be set-aside for families who have a member with a disability. On-site supportive service coordination will assess family needs, develop a family service plan and make referrals to appropriate service providers to meet those needs.
Faith Based Initiative
The faith-based community has a long history of aiding people in need. CCIA has succeeded in collaborating with the faith community for volunteer involvement in restorative mentoring practices designed to assist victims of crime, offenders re-entering their communities, offenders' families, and engage in community capacity building activities.
Victim Services give survivors of crime a voice in the criminal justice system. The Victim Advisory Board’s mission is to create a seamless system of support and services for victims by raising funds to support victim’s unmet financial needs. Victim Impact Panels offer members the opportunity to share their tragedy with offenders, schools, and other agencies to help call attention to the harm caused by crime and ways to help repair it.
Weed and Seed
Operation Weed and Seed is foremost a strategy rather than a program, which aims to prevent, control and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in these Cedar Rapids areas:
The strategy involves a two-pronged approach:
Each One Reach One AmeriCorps Project
This program assists community partner's efforts to provide support to neighborhoods, at-risk youth, and families Activities revolve around the goal of infusing social supports into communities to meet their needs. Members provide direct services by mentoring a child with an incarcerated parent; helping facilitate after school programs for at-risk youth; providing group mentoring support to aid in prisoner re-entry; becoming a neighborhood partner to meet the need of families; and helping to develop resources for these activities.
Volunteers in Service to America
As part of the Corporation for National and Community Service AmeriCorps program, Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, places individuals with community-based agencies to help find long-term solutions to the problems caused by urban and rural poverty. CCIA’s volunteers are working in the Weed and Seed neighborhoods to create and expand resource centers, promote financial management/literacy, revitalize the neighborhood, and continue to be involved in flood recovery and rebuild work in the community. They also work on prison re-entry issues with the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers are located in four Cedar Rapids neighborhood resource centers created through the Weed and Seed program. VITA offers free tax preparation to families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a valuable, but complex, tax benefit. Though it is the federal government’s largest program benefiting working families, as many as 20% of eligible families don’t claim the credit. Last year the program served 977 taxpayers resulting in $1,427,428 in refunds claimed. 41% of the refunds were EITC dollars.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
CCIA is part of this national comprehensive, strategic approach to reducing gun crime in America. By linking together federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders, PSN provides a multifaceted approach to deterring and punishing gun crime. The first strategy in our community is presenting the message of gun safety and having youth sign a pledge against gun violence. The second strategy is targeted to reduce gang violence.
Circles of Support and Accountability
This project seeks to reduce the risk of new offense by engaging supervised offenders in the community and opening an avenue for restoration and healing for people impacted by crime. Circle members and the offender enter a covenant to work together to provide support and accountability and to pursue an action plan that moves towards accountability, healing and responsible living.