Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big SIsters
Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters has been serving low-income, underprivileged youth from single-parent families within Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Knox counties for more than 35 years. Our mentoring programs have diverted thousands of youth at risk of becoming involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Today, we are the community leader in providing youth mentoring services and serve more than 400 youth annually.
Unfortunately, central Illinois has a growing low-income, under-educated and single-parent population. Often these children do not have extended family support systems or regular contact with the absent parent. Many times this results in low self-esteem, lack of socialization skills, anger management issues and difficulty in school. In addition, these children are challenged by multiple problems such as crime, drugs, gangs, poor physical, mental and dental health, housing, mobility, lack of parenting and other serious issues. These obstacles make them naturally more susceptible to negative influences which often lead to teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, dropping out of school and entry into the juvenile legal system. In fact, 85% of the children that are adjudicated delinquents are from single parent families.
Our community-based and school-based mentoring programs are designed to assist children through their formative years, and ultimately help them become productive citizens within our community. In all of our matches, we have consistently found that what mattered most to these children were not the activities, but the fact that they had a caring adult in their lives. They had a positive and trustworthy role model to confide in and look up to. It is through these mentoring relationships that children begin to make better decisions.
Every year our parents, teachers and mentors complete our Program Outcome-Based Evaluation Form, developed by the National Big Brothers Big Sisters offices, which measures progress on 21 different goal areas. This tool confirmed that during the past year:
85% of our children improved positive school preparedness, classroom participation and behaviors 85% of our children increased their academic performance 90% of our children avoided juvenile delinquency 95% of our children avoided substance abuse 90% of our children improved their relationships with family members and peers
These children have great potential; however, many never experience the opportunities to explore and develop their talents and skills. Most of these children just need the extra attention that spending time with a caring adult can give them. They need a sense of hope.