Program for at-risk youth faces funding crisis

A program targeting some of the most at-risk children in Memphis is facing a funding crisis.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Memphis says it mentors nearly 500 kids whose parents are in jail or prison.

Now organizers are uncertain about the programs future.

The last three years have been nothing short of amazing for 16-year-old Dominique Shaw who has been mentored by three years.

"I had like two 'F' s and the rest of the C's. I was making C's and D's but since he been in my life I've been making A's and B's," says Shaw.

He credits his academic success and real life goals to his big brother mentor John Parks.

Shaw adds, "the best person I have ever met. Been like a father to me. "He has set my mind to make me want to go to college. He set my mind to make me want to be somebody out of life," Shaw adds.

Shaw's father is in jail.

John Parks has stepped in and helped take this once-troubled teen to a path of success and unlimited possibilities.

"They said take back our neighborhoods but we have to mentor the people in the neighborhood  and that's the only way that you are going to take it back," expalins Parks.

The pair are part of nearly 500 Shelby County matches in the Amachi program -- a Big Brother Big Sister initiative that mentors children who have parents in jail.

Adrienne Bailey with Big Brothers Big Sisters says, "so we have seen children that come in and have academic or trust problems and after six months or after a year, great improvement has been shown.'

Statistics show children who have parents in jail or prison are seventy percent more likely to join them behind bars.

The Amachi program has been trying to change that. But a federal grant expires this year.

When the organization asked for state funding from the Department of Corrections, the DOC opted out.

It's easier to mentor children than to build more prisons," says Bailey.

But without the proper funding it'll be tougher to continue the program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is hoping funding will come before the legislative session is over later this month.

If you would like to help out contact your legislator. You can also help by becoming a mentor for the organization.


to email Andrew Douglas.