Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry Launches $4 Million Mentoring Program for At-Risk Youth

Public-Private Partnership Will Help Children of Imprisoned Parents

Thursday, March 09, 2006  •  Press Release

DALLAS – Gov. Rick Perry today announced a $3.78 million grant to launch Amachi Texas, a statewide program to match trained adult mentors with children whose parents are in the state prison system. As a public-private partnership, the program combines the expertise and resources of the Office of the Governor, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the OneStar Foundation, and the Texas Workforce Commission.

“The mission of Amachi Texas is simple: to set thousands of Texas children free from the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration through the compassion of mentoring,” Perry said. “Amachi Texas will mentor 1,300 children who have a parent behind bars, build infrastructure across the state to reach thousands more in the future, and I am confident it will serve as a national model as to what can be accomplished when caring adults take the time to become a mentor.”

The Amachi Program was founded five years ago by the former mayor of Philadelphia, the Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode Sr. The program has since expanded to more than 100 cities across the nation. In the Nigerian dialect Ibo, “amachi” means “Who knows what God has brought us through this child?” The state’s $3.78 million grant is the largest commitment ever made for an Amachi effort.

“The statistics show that children of prisoners are too often condemned to the worst of all fates – a life without hope. They are far more likely to struggle with depression, drop out of school, or fall captive to drugs and alcohol abuse,” Perry said. “But with the Amachi mentoring program, we can reverse those trends and put thousands of children on a different and better path.”

An estimated 7.3 million American children – about 70,000 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone – have a parent in prison, on probation or on parole. Studies show that children who have a volunteer Big Brother or Sister are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 33 percent less likely to become violent, and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

“No child should be held captive by the influence of drugs, alcohol and crime, or sentenced to a lifetime of failure because of the mistakes of a parent,” Perry said. “We must end the cultural tragedy of children meeting their parents and grandparents for the first time in prison. Let’s give them hope with a guiding hand and through a labor of love.”

Goode joined Perry at the announcement, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America national board member Frank Bracken; Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who is honorary state chairman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas; Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Christina Melton Crain, and Susan Weddington, president of the OneStar Foundation. Gov. Perry also visited Abilene today to announce the launch of Amachi Texas.

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