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June 2004Vol. 5, No. 5Faith-Based Mentoring for Children of Prisoners

A unique mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents has shown success in improving children's self-esteem and academic performance. Originally developed by Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, the Amachi program is a partnership between faith-based organizations that provide volunteer mentors and nonprofit agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS) that provide program infrastructure and expertise. Amachi has shown such success in its initial location that 23 more metropolitan areas have begun to set up similar programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now provides funding for some of these programs through its grants for mentoring children of prisoners.

For the Philadelphia Amachi program, BBBS identified the children of incarcerated parents and completed all of the screening, training, and matching of mentors. Pastors from 42 local churches each agreed to provide at least 10 volunteers who would serve as mentors. The result has been 726 matches of mentors with children of incarcerated parents since 2001. Each mentor meets with his or her child several times a month to participate in fun activities, review schoolwork, or just spend time together.

The Amachi partnership between churches and BBBS has a number of notable features:

  • Recruitment by pastors has resulted in a large pool of qualified mentors, of whom 90 percent are African American or Latino.
  • Relying on the infrastructure of BBBS has allowed churches to focus on providing caring volunteers.
  • Caregivers of children are identified and contacted by Amachi staff to recruit the children into the program.

Data from the first 556 matches show that the majority of mentors and caregivers reported their children had increased in self-confidence and had improved in academic performance and school behavior since the program began. Mentor relationships that had been established for 12 months or more were especially successful.

The Amachi program is featured in Public/Private Ventures' February 2004 In Brief, which can be read at A complete report on the program can be downloaded at (Editor's note: Link no longer active).

Related Item

Read more about support for children of incarcerated parents in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Children of Incarcerated Parents: Research and Resources" (February 2004)
  • "Help for Children of Prisoners" (June/July 2003)