A new $40,000 grant will help Big Brothers Big Sisters expand their school-based mentoring program. (Citizen file)

$40K grant for mentoring in Cowichan aims to deter youth from life of crime

This funding will expand the existing school-based mentoring program into new schools

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cowichan Valley has received a $40,000 grant from the Province of British Columbia, through the Civil Forfeiture Crime Prevention and Crime Remediation grant program, to support school-based mentoring services to youth at high risk for involvement in crime.

This funding will expand the existing school-based mentoring program into new schools and implement a priority participant criterion (targeting youth facing disproportionate risks for future criminality) that will reflect provincial and national research as well as community-specific knowledge and evidence on youth and crime.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cowichan Valley matches caring adults and older teens with vulnerable children for mentoring to empower at-risk youth to reach their full potential.

Mentoring programs include traditional community matches (Big Brothers, Sisters, and Families paired with a child in need) and school-based matches (in-school mentoring that also includes teen mentoring, seniors-for-kids, and group sessions).

Most importantly, the mentoring program specifically addresses children “in the gap” between fragile living situations and official child protection.

A proactive approach is particularly important in the Cowichan Valley which is currently ranked 14th (out of 78) in B.C. on the composite index of crime, with spikes in serious youth crime around Lake Cowichan (triple the B.C. rate). Civil Forfeiture Grant funding will support the expansion of this initiative into Lake Cowichan School.

“The Cowichan region is facing a child vulnerability crisis,” says Erin Generous, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters. This crisis includes early development vulnerability and youth mental health hospitalization rates far in excess of provincial averages, as well as numbers of children in care or in need of protection that are two and 7.5 times, respectively, that of the B.C. generally.

In addition, Duncan is repeatedly named as one of the worst cities in the province for child poverty (First Call Child Poverty Reports, 2015-2017).

“These factors create intersections of vulnerability that expose Cowichan Valley children to disproportionate risk of future criminal behaviour and the negative life-path that follows,” says Generous.

“This is a significant detriment not only to the individual, but the entire community. Mentoring remedies this imbalance early through the simple but highly effective strategy of caring interpersonal relationships. Positive social connections have a profound effect on a child’s future.”

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