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November 25, 2009 > 'Tis the season to be a mentor

'Tis the season to be a mentor

Submitted By Karli Bobus

Jessica has lived with her aunt and six older cousins since she was just a month old. She has Type I diabetes, has had a liver transplant, several blood transfusions and also suffers from frequent ear infections and a weakened immune system. Jessica spends much time at the hospital and frequently misses school because of her conditions.

When she first fell ill, Jessica lost 90 percent of her hair and was teased at school for wearing scarves every day. Nevertheless, she tries her best to maintain her studies and enjoys school.

Jessica's mentor is patient, understanding of her medical issues and helps her feel like a normal child. Her OreMi Mentor, Laura, is someone with whom she can discuss her situation and how she feels because she receives little attention at home. Jessica is very shy but, when she is with her mentor, receives one-on-one attention and the chance to have fun just like any other child.

Nearly 2 million children in the US have at least one parent in prison and more than 7 million have a parent under some form of state or Federal correctional supervision. That equates to almost 2 percent of children.

In many ways, these children grow up just like other children but they also face an additional set of challenges. Children, with one or more parents in prison, must deal with separation from a parent (usually for undetermined periods of time with infrequent visitation); they often face social stigma associated with having an incarcerated parent and may live in unstable or chaotic environments. Children with a parent in prison are seven times more likely than their peers to enter the criminal justice system as adults, at greater risk of joining gangs, using drugs and dropping out of school.

A recent report released by the Prison Fellowship stated children of incarcerated parents are more prone to aggressive behavior, severe traumatic stress and poor academic performance. They also suffer economic hardship that surpasses that of their peers. Strong, supportive relationships with their incarcerated parent are one of the best ways to protect children from these risks and help them navigate the challenges confronting them. However, most state and federal prisons are located far from their homes, making significant contact difficult.

To institute stability into children's lives, the OreMi mentoring program offers lasting one-on-one mentoring relationships with community members who work to develop each child's confidence and potential and break the cycle of incarceration.

For more information, volunteer opportunities or to request services, visit or contact Karli Bobus ( or Kara Abelson ( or call (415) 328-5804.

OreMi Mentoring Program

The OreMi Mentoring Program is one of the programs provided by the Family Support Services of the Bay Area (FSSBA), a private, non-profit organization supporting parents and caregivers of vulnerable children.

Mentor Requirements:
* Be at least 18 years old;
* Must make a one year, 1 hour per week commitment to mentoring a young child the your community(flexible);
* Must pass a comprehensive background check;
* Attend OreMi training and follow-up support trainings.

Mentee Requirements:
* Be aged 4 - 18;
* Have a parent or primary caregiver currently incarcerated in a Federal or State Correction facility;
* Reside in Alameda or Contra Costa County;
* Commits to meet with a mentor at least 1 hour per week.

Contact Karli Bobus ( or Kara Abelson ( Call (415) 328-5804.

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