[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 7-Dec-2012
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Contact: Christi Fish
210-458-5141
University of Texas at San Antonio

Texas Bar Foundation awards UTSA $20,000 grant to mentor delinquent foster youth

San Antonio region currently offers few mentoring programs for foster youth

The Texas Bar Foundation has awarded a one-year, $20,000 grant to scholars in the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio to initiate a mentoring program for delinquent foster youth in San Antonio. The program, which explores the use of paid mentors, is expected to model delinquency reduction strategies for local youth by increasing their graduation odds and enhancing their college readiness.

According to the nonprofit, Children's Rights, more than 1,000 children enter foster care each day. They will remain in foster care for an average of two years, and many will struggle through the emotional transition from adolescence to adulthood at a time when they should be learning the skills for independence.

"Delinquent youth in foster care are, through various circumstances, at a high risk for adult incarceration and other negative life outcomes," said Michael Tapia, assistant professor in the College of Public Policy. Tapia is a criminal justice scholar focused on youth gangs, minority youth in the criminal justice system and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. "Our program seeks to help youth establish close and trusting relationships with caring mentors who will serve as catalysts to transform their future."

Mentoring programs, generally, have demonstrated many positive effects. Successful mentor-mentee relationships help mentees flourish in academics, job preparation, self-confidence, problem-solving and goal-setting.

UTSA's unique program will match delinquent foster youth with traditionally college-aged students who are close to them in age, known as "near-peer" matches. UTSA will use paid mentors from its Department of Criminal Justice to guarantee a high intensity program with regular communication between the mentors and the youth.

UTSA's partner, Baptist Child & Family Services (BCFS), Health & Human Services (HHS) agency in San Antonio, will refer the youth and host early program activities such as mentor training and matching with youth.

Completion of a UTSA course that helps mentors better understand the challenges that foster youth face and the solutions available to them will be required before a mentor can participate in the program. In addition, Tapia will provide coaching during the program to help the mentors hone their listening and communication skills.

"Our goal is to facilitate the development of strong connections between our mentors and the foster care youth they serve," said Harriett Romo, professor of Sociology and director of the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute. "We want our foster care youth to reach their fullest potential. We also hope this partnership will allow our criminal justice majors at UTSA to have a fuller understanding of the barriers that youth face as they make choices that could lead to higher education or less productive outcomes."

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Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $14 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation's largest charitably-funded bar foundation.

The Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute at UTSA creates opportunities for low income children and families in Bexar County to thrive and evaluates the efficacy of programs that address needs unique to the region's population.

For more information, contact Professor Michael Tapia at 210-458-2628 or michael.tapia@utsa.edu.

About UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the largest of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution of access and excellence, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA serves nearly 31,000 students in more than 135 degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy and Sciences as well as University College, the Honors College and the Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond. Learn more at www.utsa.edu.



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