Clark County 1 of 4 in nation to get grant for juvenile mentoring

Money will pay to establish program

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter



Volunteers needed

Clark County is seeking volunteer mentors for juvenile offenders. Training begins in April. For details, call 360-397-8246 ext. 7517.

Project Combine on the Web

Clark County is one of four places across the nation that has received a grant to help harness the power of research showing that caring adults can make a difference helping youth turn away from a life of crime.

The $66,500 grant from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will help the county set up a mentoring program, called Project Combine, for offenders in the Juvenile Recovery Court, the equivalent of probation but with a stronger rehabilitation focus, said Brad Finegood, coordinator of the recovery court.

The county is now seeking volunteers to serve as mentors for a period of at least 12 months. Training is tentatively scheduled for April. Training takes about 10 hours.

Jimi Evans, mentor coordinator for Project Combine in Clark County, said the goal is to match mentors with 95 juveniles in two years' time.

"They'll be modeling and demonstrating healthy adult relationships with youth," Evans said. "We know that's one consistent component seen in youth who turn their lives around."

Chestnut Health Care and Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring developed the program and served as the sub-grantor for OJJDP. In addition to Clark County, they gave grants to the Pima Prevention Partnership in Tuscan, Ariz., Denver Juvenile Probation in Colorado and Horizon Behavioral Health in Lynchburg, Va., to launch Project Combine.

Mentors will be expected to make at least one hour per week available to their match. The mentor and juvenile would meet to just talk or possibly share fun activities, such as bowling, Evans said.

To be eligible to mentor, volunteers must be at least 20 years old, submit to a background check, be free of convictions related to exploitation of vulnerable adults or children and crime-free for at least two years.

Evans said Project Combine's curriculum focuses on positive reinforcement and strengths-based treatment for youth.

"Let's say the youth wanted to talk about substance abuse," Evans said. "The role of the mentor is not to criticize the youth. The mentor should support the fact that the youth was willing to talk about that and provide unconditional positive support. They would work with the youth to develop goals based around the youth's own strengths."

Evans said he hopes to match mentors and juveniles of the same gender. Mentors also will have regular access to Project Combine staff to seek feedback and advice, as well as additional training, if needed, Evans said.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551;;;

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