Roots and Horizons
Jun 11, 2009 12:08PM
● By Super Admin
With a grassroots mindset and a cause-focused approach to community, the non-profit Folsom Cordova Community Partnership (FCCP), the mission of which is “to mobilize and integrate resources that enhance the education, health and well-being of the children and families of our community,” has found an ally in its flagship affiliated program Roots and Horizons.
Roots and Horizons helps promote and fulfill FCCP’s ambitious goal by supporting its “one mission, one agency” principle. The cornerstone of this program is local-level mentoring for children of incarcerated parents. Founded in 2005, after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration established its Mentoring Children of Prisoners Initiative in 2003, Roots and Horizons was created to help stem the rising tide of second-generation entries into the criminal justice system.
According to Program Manager Erica Boekestein, the mission of Roots and Horizons is “to connect children of incarcerated parents with supportive, adult mentors who help them develop their strengths, discover their talents and reach their dreams,” and in doing so, help to reduce drug and youth violence and increase self-confidence. Mentors are matched to mentorees, ages 8 to 17, according to mutual interests and personalities, and together this pairing enjoy and engage in a variety of activities, from going to the movies and playing games to working on homework.
Beyond the one-on-one aspect of Roots and Horizons, the organization plans group activities to foster positive, supportive interaction between program participants. “Field trips are an important aspect of the program because it enables youth to build friendships with other children in their situation,” says Boekestein, explaining that children of prisoners often face unique emotional difficulties resulting from the trauma of separation and the stigma associated with having an incarcerated parent. Peer support in combination with the positive influence of a mentor helps provide mentorees with the increase in self-esteem that they need to actively participate in school and improve their academic performance as well as to make better life choices. Boekestein says, “Studies show that without proactive support like mentoring, children of incarcerated parents are seven times more susceptible to future incarceration.”
Since its inception, Roots and Horizons mentors have donated 2000 hours of their time, which has resulted in a variety of mentoree accomplishments, from citizenship award honors to crucial changes in overall demeanor. But the organization continues to set its sights high and, by the end of 2009, aims to have mentored 100 youth. But for all of the organization’s successes, it also faces ongoing challenges such as a shortfall of male mentors and fund-raising. The next fundraiser, A Taste of December, will be held in December 2009 in Rancho Cordova. Of all these concerns, however, Boekestein says that the most pressing is, as it has always been, “the well-being and future of our children.”