February 24, 2011

Killing Government Youth-Serving Programs

I am doing training workshops for Mentoring Children of Prisoners (MCP) grantees through MANY, the Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family Services. The data indicates there are near two million children of incarcerated parents in the United States. For a variety of reasons, these kids are four times more likely to enter a life of crime than "normal" children. Organizations funded by the Federal MCP grant are working hard to connect these young people with good male and female mentors, and the hope of a better life. I'm proud to be connected to so many people doing such good work, in often very difficult conditions. They are some of my major sheroes and heroes.

An email from MANY today really shook me up. It announced the results of the budget cutting that is going on in the U.S. House of Representatives. The budget they passed includes cutting $100 billion dollars compared from the President's FY 2011 proposed budget. These cuts include, "zeroing out of the following youth programs: Mentoring Children of Prisoners, YouthBuild, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Community Grants, Teach for America, and State Grants for Incarcerated Youth. It also significantly cuts the Corporation for National and Community Service (the agency that runs the AmeriCorps programs), Juvenile Justice programs, Head Start, and 21st Century Learning Centers".

For a complete list of cuts and reductions, you can click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/_files/ProgramCutsFY2011ContinuingResolution.pdf

The H.R.1 bill now goes to the Senate and that is where the battle to serve at-risk and other youth is going to be fought. In all the years of publishing this blog, I have never mounted a soapbox in support of political agenda, but this time it feels necessary to take a stand. While I very much understand the need for fiscal restraint and deficit reduction, and don't want to see taxpayer dollars wasted on bad programs, the complete elimination of successful core safety net programs, for short term (and perhaps political) impact, seems too drastic and very shortsighted.

Congress is currently on recess and will return to Washington DC next week.  When they return, the Senate will vote on this bill before it goes to the President. At that time, important decisions will be made which will have profound impact on millions of people going forward. If you care about the lives of children served by these programs, if you are concerned about the hidden costs (community violence, incarceration, damaged families, reduced literacy . . . etc.) that will certainly accrue when these populations are not served, if you care about the quality of life for everyone in this country, then now would be a good time to let your elected officials know how you feel. You can read the MANY email here and in it find guidance on how to approach your elected officials. IF you care, NOW is the time to act. Contact the youth/children staff members in your Representatives’ AND Senators' Washington, DC offices this week.

To learn more about Mentoring Children of Prisoners grant, how to support children of incarcerated parents, or to learn about the DVD: Troop 1500: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, visit the Resource Center website for The Corporation for National and Community Service.

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  1. Earl,
    I understand your concern. I believe at some point we need to have our government stop funding every program that comes along, just because it sounds good. We each need to look at where our money is going and decide if it is being spent wisely.

    I am sure you are well aware that many programs are NOT using our funds the way we intended. If you are knowledgeable about every program on your list and know they are all using OUR money prudently, so be it!

    If I believe a program is doing work I believe in and spends my money wisely, I donate to them generously. Sadly, nearly every program I look at these days is spending a disproportionate amount on buildings and management.

    Thank you for your posts, keep 'em comin'!


  2. Brian Mier2:43 PM

    G’day - I’m appalled at what is happening in the USA regarding these programs, just as you are.

    From the distance of Australia, it has for some time seemed to me that USA is ‘the land of the free – so long as you are wealthy, healthy and well-educated!’ I don’t think I hold this perception alone.

    FYI. I want to suggest to you that there may be a way of effecting large scale change of attitude in politics.

    In Australia, some years ago a group on concerned citizens decided that the antics and prejudices and adversarial behavior of our major political party were dysfunctional and not in the best interests of Australia. Thus was formed an organization, which mostly acts online. It’s called – GetUp. http://getup.org.au/

    GetUp is an issues-based, non party political organization. It takes in issues which members put forward. If you look at current and previous campaigns http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/ you will get an idea of how it has ranged far and wide. The two major political parties in Australia hate it, yet have to respect it and what it does/achieves. GetUp currently has over 436,000 subscribers / members in a population of 21 million. That’s 2%, but if we extract non-voters under 18 YO it is at least double that percentage and very significant in political terms. Explore the site fully to get a good idea of how it works, especially the "About Us" area.

    Members are not obliged to support all campaigns – you opt in to support any given campaign. For example, I supported the campaign to highlight inadequate funding of mental health services in Australia prior to our last Australian election, but I often don’t support campaigns for causes such as accepting people who bypass the Australian immigration system and attempt to land on our shores by illegal means – usually boats from Indonesia; in my view they pay thousands of dollars to the smugglers who run these operations and are behaving like spoiled children jumping the queue. GetUp is able to raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations to place advertisements for specific campaigns. For example, money was raised here to place advertisements in major USA newspapers protesting against the highly unethical statements of some of your politicians that Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and author of the Wikileaks, was America’s No. I enemy and should be shot – legally or illegally. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the case, this was just hysterical, illogical, illegal behavior encouraging American citizens to bypass your, our and the world legal systems which are there to determine right and wrong and judge accordingly. (World media has a lot to answer for with its engagement of the people and its partisan actions, often toxic.)

    GetUp in Australia has been responsible for influencing politicians’ votes and effecting changes of policies – sometimes in small ways and sometimes in major ways.

    I say all this merely to illustrate that this modern way of using technology (the internet) to allow citizens to make their views known to politicians of any/all political persuasions is a practical alternative to simply sitting on your thistle whining about things or simply urging people to contact politicians. (I’m not suggesting for one minute that the former is what you are doing.) This is a highly organized way of managing the second option, making it easy for people to do so.

    Perhaps it is something that members of your organization would look at initiating as a grass-roots movement to tell politicians that their performance and behavior are simply not acceptable to the people, the citizens – the voters! Just a thought and suggestion.


    Brian Mier
    Men's Health Educator
    Eagle Health Resources
    PO Box 194, Abbotsford Vic 3067


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.