About 10 years ago, a kindly reverend, who also happened to be a 2 time Mayor of Philadelphia, visited a prison in Pennsylvania, and in that prison he met a grandfather. He also met that grandfather's son and grandson – incarcerated in that prison. Not only were all three IN prison, but they had all MET there. And the grandson had a young baby boy—born on the outside. The grandson appealed to the reverend, he said – “I am afraid – so afraid that I will meet MY son – in here. Is there anything that can be done to make this stop?” So that reverend started the Amachi mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents. He began this program to stop the devastating, destructive, hopeless and generational cycle of incarceration that an overwhelming majority of youth in our country are facing, especially minority youth. This program came to Texas in 2006, funded out of the Governors office and administered by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Since 2006, the Amachi program has served thousands of children of prisoners across Texas – MANY here in Bexar county. Since 2006, 99% of these vulnerable youth have stayed OUT of the juvenile justice system. In the current Texas state budget this program is completely eliminated.
I understand that we have to make cuts. I understand that we have to balance our budget. I understand that we must be fiscally responsible. But I don’t understand cutting programs that are so effective, so necessary, and so economically beneficial. I don’t understand making cuts so arbitrary and capricious in the sense that they do not appear to take program performance and outcomes into account in any way. 99% of youth who were statistically on their way to going into the family business are making different decisions in THIS program. They are making these decisions because their mentors are showing them that they have other options.
Now there’s a word. Options. We too have options. Texas has options other than totally eliminating the highly effective programs and services that are so critical to the continued growth and development and success of our youth. Programs like Amachi that without a doubt keep kids out of trouble and in school.
These are turbulent times and we also need to carefully make the right decisions. How we act now will affect the future of Texas significantly. Our children are on a precipice; they only have one childhood, and its now. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, our mentors help kids facing challenges see their way to making the choices that have the best chance for success in the long run. In Texas, we need to make choices that have the best chance for success in the long run. And we certainly cannot choose to abandon youth who are already so deprived of positive adult support. We cannot send them yet another message that they don’t matter. Making the right choices is not easy. But choosing effectiveness is always right.