makes impact on at-risk Ohio kids
from Cincinnati Post,
January 6, 2003
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A 2-year-old Hamilton County program that provides
professional mentors for seriously at-risk students beginning
in the first grade already is producing positive results.
Friends of the Children, a long-term mentoring program,
currently has 10 professionals paired with 80 students in 25
schools, mostly in the Cincinnati Public Schools District. The
mentors are supposed to stay with the children through high
Of the children involved in the program, 98 percent have been
promoted to the next grade level. In addition, the percentage
of students in the program receiving satisfactory grades in
math, reading, science and social studies ranges from 70 to
91, depending on the subject.
The impact of the mentoring program is outlined in a report
released today by Family Service of the Cincinnati Area, an
agency administering Friends of the Children.
Hamilton County has provided funding for the program, modeled
after one in Portland, Ore., for the past two years.
The program's goal is to have a positive impact on the most
at- risk children through a long-term mentoring relationship.
The children in the program are those most at risk for
dropping out of school, abusing drugs, becoming involved with
the criminal justice system or becoming teen parents.
"We're trying to identify those most vulnerable in the
community," said Tracey Knight, director of the program.
"These are children from families with real severe issues.
They need early intervention and intensive relationship
building, and it must be long term.
"The children we work with have shown dramatic improvement in
their school work and have fewer discipline problems. With our
continued support, these children will remain on the road to
becoming productive citizens in Hamilton County."
The program follows the children regardless of where their
families move. Initially started in five Cincinnati schools,
the program now serves students in 25 schools, some outside of
Nearly 70 percent of the students have a learning disability,
low achievement or poor attendance in school. About 80 percent
have a family history of drug or alcohol abuse, criminal
justice involvement, welfare dependency, domestic violence,
suspicions of abuse or neglect or come from a single-parent
The paid mentors average 4.4 hours per week with each child.
Three of those hours typically are spent one-on-one with the
child, working on academics, life skills, self-esteem and
Hamilton County is committed to funding the program, but that
money can only be used for students in the county. Family
Service has to look for funding to pay for mentors for
students who move outside the county, Knight said.
She would like to see the program expanded to Northern
Kentucky, if funding could be secured.
Two researchers, Steven Howe and Kristin Valerius, evaluated
the Friends program and its effectiveness during the past two
"The short-term outcomes we've examined have shown us that
Friends has a measurable, positive impact on the children they
serve," Howe said.
"While the program is no guarantee that these children will
lead productive, responsible lives as adults, we do believe
the program is altering the trajectory of these children's
lives, and that their chances of future success are