Benji Thurber, Communications Director
Office: (802) 658-1888
Cell: (802) 249-8316
Elizabeth Morris, Juvenile Justice Coordinator
Department for Children and Families
Cell: (802) 760-0650
Burlington, VT—The Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) and MENTOR Vermont will receive a federal grant of $1.25 million over three years from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to provide mentoring services to youth living in rural Vermont communities affected by the opiate epidemic. These new federal funds will allow MENTOR Vermont to support local mentoring agencies serving youth between the ages of 6 and 17, in 9 Vermont counties: Bennington, Caledonia, Essex, Orleans, Franklin, Grand Isle, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor. Collectively, these programs will increase the number of active mentoring matches in these regions by 200 over the 3-year project period.
As a result, rural Vermont youth will have more supportive social environments and will be less likely to engage in risky behavior, which can escalate to opioid abuse, juvenile delinquency, and youth victimization. According to the “Mentoring Effect,” a study released in 2014 by MENTOR, one in three youth in Vermont will enter adulthood without having a formal or informal mentoring relationship with a caring adult. National studies by MENTOR and Big Brothers Big Sisters demonstrate that youth with mentors are more likely to develop positive relationships with peers and adults and pursue college and other post-secondary opportunities. Based on the 2019 Vermont Mentoring Surveys, more than 66 percent of middle and high school youth supported by mentoring programs in Vermont feel like they matter to people in their community, and more than 86 percent of mentors play a direct role in their mentee’s education.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand mentoring services for communities in Vermont that have been hit hardest by the opioid crisis,” said Chad Butt, Executive Director of MENTOR Vermont. “We are incredibly grateful to Senator Leahy and his staff for their work in D.C. to adjust the guidelines of this grant so more funding can support mentoring programs in Vermont and other small, rural states. All young people need positive adults in their lives in order to grow up to become productive and engaged members of their community. This funding will allow existing mentoring agencies to increase the number of youth they support and expand into underserved areas of the state where mentors are needed most.”
Over the past five years, Senator Leahy has advocated for expanding the eligibility for the national OJJDP youth mentoring funding to allow for grants to go toward supporting rural states like Vermont that have been disproportionately impacted by the opiate epidemic. DCF and MENTOR Vermont became eligible to apply for funding because of a new category that allows a state government agency to receive a grant and sub-grant it to other agencies that can meet the needs of smaller, local communities.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, “We know that mentoring works. This grant will support the vital work being done by mentoring groups in Vermont’s most rural areas to prevent our next generation from falling to the pull of opioid use. When we talk with Vermonters in recovery, we hear stories of how young people turned to drugs out of boredom and isolation. We must make these connections with young people in rural regions if we are to break the cycle of addiction. I’m proud of the work that MENTOR Vermont has done to expand these opportunities, and as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ll continue to support the work of mentoring programs in Vermont and across the nation by making this a funding priority as we make budget decisions.”
“I strongly believe that communities are truly at their very best when they support young people and provide an environment for them to thrive. Mentoring programs help young Vermonters realize their full potential. With this funding, the Department for Children and Families and MENTOR Vermont will be able to better prepare our younger generations for healthy, successful, and fulfilling lives,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Representative Peter Welch, D-Vt., said, “MENTOR Vermont is incredibly successful at providing mentors to at-risk youth across Vermont. Mentoring is a proven way to forge meaningful connections and break the cycle of addiction. This new funding will help make a great program even better and reach even more youth in our state.”
The funding provided by OJJDP will more than double the amount of grant funding MENTOR Vermont is able to provide to support youth mentoring programs in Vermont in 2019-2020. MENTOR Vermont provides more than $300,000 in annual grant funding to other organizations through Vermont Mentoring Grants, which are funded through support from the A.D. Henderson Foundation and DCF.
“I want to thank Senator Leahy and his work as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee, along with Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, to help secure support for this funding,” said Governor Phil Scott. “We know the best way to build resiliency for those who’ve faced immense adversity is through healthy and supportive relationships. This funding will support this critical need in the areas of Vermont who need it most,” Governor Scott added.
“Mentoring is proven to have a significant positive impact on a youth’s education, daily life and career,” said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. “Vermont youth will benefit tremendously from having better access to mentoring services that allow them to thrive while reducing their risk of engaging in negative behaviors.”
The Vermont Department for Children and Families delivers a wide array of programs and services to Vermonters in areas such as child care, child development, child protection, child support, disability determination, and economic benefits that help meet basic needs.
MENTOR Vermont supports 140 adult-to-youth mentoring program sites that serve 2,300 mentor pairs throughout the state. In addition to awarding grant funding to youth mentoring programs, the organization provides technical support to mentoring program staff, maintains an online program directory and referral system for volunteers, manages a quality-based program management database, raises public awareness of mentoring, works with programs to ensure they are meeting best practices, and leads statewide mentoring initiatives. For more information about mentoring programs and initiatives in Vermont, visit www.mentorvt.org.