Mentors aid area youth, but more are still needed

Published on Monday, 4 September 2017 22:01
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - Sometimes Stephanie Adamowicz and 15-year-old Julie get their nails done together.

Other times, Adamowicz will take her to the campus of Central Connecticut State University, to show her what a college education looks like.

“It feels good to have someone look up to me and consider me a role model,” the 23-year-old Meriden resident said. “It feels really fulfilling that I can give her information on how she can have a good future.”

As a volunteer with Klingberg Family Centers’ mentoring program, Adamowicz is providing positive socialization and a stable adult presence for Julie, who is in the state Department of Children and Families system. Julie is not her actual name, which is not being divulged.

The program is designed to provide young people in tough circumstances a chance to experience a better life, said Daisy Ortiz, program manager for the Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division, which contracts out mentoring programs for teens on probation throughout the state.

“Mentoring plays a big factor in juvenile lives,” Ortiz said. “We don’t have a lot of national data on recidivism but we recognize it has positive impacts on the juvenile justice system.”

Klingberg Family Centers is one of several providers who match at-risk youth with adult mentors who agree to volunteer eight hours a month for a year.

The One-on-One Mentoring program is for people 14 to 21 years old who are in DCF care in a group home, residential home, foster care or other group setting. The Juvenile Mentoring program is for children and teens 10 to 17 who are on probation or have been referred by other service providers working with the Court Support Services Division.

Klingberg is hoping to match 40 young people from the New Britain-Hartford area with adult mentors who will take them to ballgames, plays or amusements or on visits to colleges.

The Juvenile Mentoring program is funded through the Court Support Services Division and administrated by the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, which chooses the agencies that provide mentoring services.

DCF provides funding for the One-on-One Mentoring program.

The New Britain-based agency has 11 mentors and young people matched. It needs another 29 adults to volunteer to match every youth slated to participate in the program, said Klingberg Youth Mentoring Program Coordinator Ellie Cuifalo.

Prospective mentors for either program must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license and proof of car insurance. They also must submit to a background check.

Mentors must attend a three-hour pre-match training session and will get support throughout the year, including ongoing training on issues that affect youth.

The bulk of those are eligible to participate are considered low- or medium-risk.

The Court Support Services Division is also working on providing high-risk youth the same opportunities with a more intense program that allows a paid mentor to spend four to five hours a week with the youth, Ortiz said.

Through agencies like Klingberg, the state has been offering traditional volunteer-driven mentoring programs for five years with 100 to 150 young participants annually.

“The mentors engage them in pro-social activities and get them out into the community,” Cuifalo said.

Adamowicz works in a therapeutic after-school program, but she wanted a volunteering experience that also involved children.

She and Julie have gone to the beach and the bookstore to pick out books. They have spent time together researching colleges the teen might attend.

“She doesn’t have a lot of positive role models,” the 23-year-old said. “I think the mentoring program helped. I see her as one of my friends who I can hang out with and help.”

For more information on mentoring at Klingberg Family Centers, call Cuifalo at 860-832-5519.

Several orientation and training sessions for new mentors are coming up in the next few weeks. They will be offered at Klingberg Family Centers on Sept. 12 from noon to 2 p.m., Sept. 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon and Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Monday, 4 September 2017 22:01. Updated: Monday, 4 September 2017 22:04.