Mentoring program helps at-risk children
Resource type: News
Times-Picayune (New Orleans) |
Life Coaches for Kids breaks absentee cycle by Tara McLellan The statistics are staggering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of single parent households is at an all-time high of 28.3 percent. And statistics show that with the rise in single parent households, there tends to be more at-risk children. Those statistics are the driving force behind a new faith-based mentoring program on the north shore. Life Coaches for Kids aims to connect mentors with children through the network of local churches. “Not every kid is in crisis,” field director Jeff Boren said. “But every child is at risk. We’d rather do preventive medicine rather than reconstructive surgery.” By putting together an interactive curriculum for mentors, a thorough application process and screening, and providing careful monitoring and support for both mentor and child, Life Coaches for Kids hopes to break the cycle of parent absenteeism. “Most of the kids we see are ages 5 though 12, both boys and girls,” executive director Shane O’Hara said. “But we may also get older kids. We want to include all those at risk.” O’Hara and Boren have seen the difference mentors working with kids have made in the community. Mentors are required to sign up for at least one year of service, but Boren and O’Hara have seen many relationships last beyond that time. “We’ve seen kids go from a C or D or F average to B’s and A’s,” Boren said. “We’ve seen these kids open up. And they want to continue working with their mentor even after the program officially ends.” Although the kids are the focus of the mentoring program, the mentors themselves reap big rewards by being a part of the program. “The biggest plus is for all the adults that get involved,” O’Hara said. “We welcome any responsible adult to be a mentor. You don’t have to have any special talent. You don’t have to be a teacher. You just have to want to make a difference.” Mentors are not responsible for fixing the problems an at-risk child may have, O’Hara said. Instead, the mentor’s role is to be a friend, to set a positive example, to listen and simply be a part of their lives. “Our mentors are not psychologists,” O’Hara said. “They are not the parent. That’s not their job. All they need to do is to provide a role model, be supportive and share values. And that is a lot for these kids.” While there is a fee for mentors to cover the cost of educational materials and background checks, there is no fee for a child to receive a mentor. Life Coaches is a Christian, faith-based program, with mentors volunteering from all denominations. Current partnerships include One Day with God, Angel Tree Prison Fellowship, Trinity Church EFCA, Volunteers of America, the Samaritan Center and the Crisis Pregnancy Center. For more information on becoming a mentor or to find a mentor for your child, visit www.lifecoachesla.org .