In the time since the Trump administration released its budget proposal, many have raised alarms about cuts to well-known, popular programs and agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and NASA.
What’s gotten less attention is that the administration’s proposed budget also includes cuts to programs that help children facing adversity to become successful, productive adults.
Unless Congress rejects the proposed elimination of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS – which runs both Americorps and the Foster Grandparents Program), these cuts will eliminate key supports for children — and cost us dearly down the road.
Grants from OJJDP allow organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters to help young people who may be at pivotal turning points in their lives make good decisions and become successful, productive adults who contribute to our community.
An example: in central Connecticut, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters has been working with a young teen named Jeff. Jeff’s easy-going, intelligent, a big sports fan — but was not doing as well in school as his mom thought he should. As a single parent working two jobs, she felt she could use some help.
With support from OJJDP, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters was able to match Jeff with a caring Big Brother (mentor), Kevin. Like his Little Brother, Kevin is a sports enthusiast – so the two quickly bonded at basketball games, football games and other sporting events. Kevin is also a college graduate who works at the Department of Children and Families – and he consistently stresses the value of education to Jeff.
“We visit the library a lot and I’m always using my sons as examples — my oldest just graduated from college and my youngest is headed in the same direction.”
Jeff’s mother can see the difference, as can his teachers. “He is doing substantially better in school since he met Kevin, and has made the honor roll,” she says. And the idea of going to college, hardly on Jeff’s radar screen before, is now something he talks about regularly.
In Connecticut, there are hundreds of children like Jeff — kids with unlimited potential, and just in need of the right support to fulfill it.
Like OJJDP, the Foster Grandparents Program and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) allow youth serving agencies like Big Brothers Big Sisters help children who are at risk to reach their highest potential.
In Hartford, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters has used CDBG funds to mentor young men and women who have gotten in a bit of trouble, but were not arrested — instead participating in the restorative justice model practiced by the Juvenile Review Board. The Juvenile Review Board allows young people to get themselves back on track — often with the help and support of caring adult mentors. With no Community Block Grants, many of these kids could end up in the criminal justice system instead of college.
Millions of Americans voted for a businessman-candidate last fall because they believed we should run the federal government more “like a business.” In making budget decisions, good businesses focus on return on investment and leveraging capital.
Independent studies of mentoring have shown that, for every dollar invested, society gets back about $3.50, thanks to the way children who’ve been mentored avoid risky behaviors, need fewer social service supports, get more education, have increased lifetime earnings and contribute more to their communities.
The administration failed to see this clear business case – and we cannot allow the U.S. Congress to do the same. We need to let senators and congressmen know that cutting these key supports for children would be a huge mistake.
Let’s continue to invest in our children. That way, we’ll avoid the pitfalls of a poorly run company that cuts costs by under-investing in its key assets – and reap the rewards of a society whose young people reach their highest potential.
State Rep. Andy Fleischmann is President and CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters.