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The Faith-Based and Community Initiative skip to primary page content Empowering America's Grassroots

Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Service

Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program
More than 100,000 Matches


In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush asked Americans to join the effort to bring compassion into the lives of America’s children of prisoners; “Government will support the training and recruiting of mentors,” he said. “Yet it is the men and women of America who will fill the need. One mentor, one person can change a life forever. And I urge you to be that one person.”  The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) began funding mentoring projects in 2003, granting $8.9 million to 52 programs.  On July 16, 2008, the program celebrated its 100,000th match. 

According to recent statistics, more than two million children and youth in the United States have at least one parent in a federal or state correctional facility. In addition to experiencing disruption in the relationship with their parent, these young people often struggle with the economic, social, and emotional burdens of the incarceration. Data indicate that mentoring programs can help young people, including those with incarcerated parents, by reducing their first-time drug and alcohol use, improving their relationships and academic performance, and reducing the likelihood that they will initiate violence. In addition, mentoring programs can provide these children with opportunities to develop a trusting relationship with a supportive adult and a stable environment that can promote healthy values and strong families.

Congress established the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program through the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Amendments (Public Law 107–133), and assigned the administration of the program to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In 2006, Congress also reauthorized the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program under the provisions of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-288). Through the New Service Delivery Demonstration Program, the new legislation incorporates the President’s proposal to allow use of program vouchers to increase access to mentoring services nationwide for the especially vulnerable youth population.


Through the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, FYSB awards grants to faith-based and community organizations, along with tribes and state and local government entities, which provide children and youth of incarcerated parents with caring adult mentors.  Each mentoring program is designed to ensure that mentors provide young people with safe and trusting relationships; healthy messages about life and social behavior; appropriate guidance from a positive adult role model; and opportunities for increased participation in education, civic service, and community activities.


Services Provided

Mentoring Children of Prisoners program grant recipients are required to provide services, both directly and in collaboration with other local agencies, to strengthen and support children of incarcerated parents and their families. This includes preserving families and connecting the children with their imprisoned parent when appropriate. In FY 2008, ACF awarded $45.6 million in funding to support 219 mentoring programs.

Further, grant recipients are required to cultivate mentors from within the child’s family and community through recruitment, screening, training, and monitoring and evaluation:

  • Recruiting:  Grantees are required to recruit mentors who are committed to spending at least one hour per week with their assigned child for a period of at least one year. 
  • Screening:  Grant recipients are required to screen volunteers extensively through appropriate reference checks, criminal background checks, and child and domestic abuse record checks, to ensure that they pose no safety risk to the young people.
  • Training:  Mentors must attend an orientation and training in mentoring skills and the practice of mentoring before being assigned to a young person.  In addition, grant recipients are responsible for matching each child to a suitable adult mentor.
  • Monitoring and Evaluating:  Grantees are required to provide ongoing support and oversight of the mentoring relationship to ensure that young people are receiving appropriate support and are benefiting from the mentor match.  Outcomes for each participating youth are measured by such factors as academic achievement and avoidance of risky behaviors. 


In addition, ACF encourages grantees to incorporate elements of a positive youth development approach.  That approach suggests that the best way to prevent young people’s involvement in risky behavior is to help them achieve their full potential.  Youth development strategies, therefore, focus on giving young people the chance to exercise leadership, build skills, and become involved in their communities.

Grant Award Process

ACF solicits applications for the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program through funding announcements on  Grant awards for these one to three year projects are made on a competitive basis, with funding for each one-year budget period determined annually.  

For More Information

For further information about the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, visit


Contact Information
Curtis Porter
Phone: 202-205-8102

Lisa Dammar
Phone: 202-401-5513