New Federal Mentoring Funds Coming; Website Launched

New solicitations for federal mentoring grants could be announced in the next few weeks and months from several federal agencies – although little is set in stone given that a new Congress and president will take office in January amid unpredictable economic and budgetary circumstances.

This trickle of information came during a Washington, D.C., meeting of the Federal Mentoring Council (FMC) earlier this month. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)-run consortium of federal agencies coordinates policies and initiatives around ensuring that youth have supportive and caring adults in their lives.

Established in May 2006 and convening quarterly, the FMC includes representatives of the U.S. departments of Education, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development, Defense and Agriculture. The meeting was chaired by Kristin McSwain, CNCS chief of program operations.

At the recent meeting, FMC members briefly discussed mentoring grants, including a forthcoming request for proposal (RFP) for Learn and Serve funding that CNCS plans to release in January. It will include school-based mentoring as an allowable activity.

Curtis Porter, director of the Youth Development Division in the HHS Family and Youth Services Bureau, said in a telephone hookup to the meeting that the federal Mentoring Children of Prisoners (MCP) solicitation will be released this spring. He said the program, which started in 2003, hit a milestone in 2008: 110,000 youth-adult matches. MCP has funded more than 320 faith-based and community organizations, in addition to states, tribes and other entities, HHS officials said. A total of $45 million was provided to support 215 mentoring programs in 2008, but the 2009 amount for MCP is not yet known.

Nancy Ayers, from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, said several mentoring solicitations could be coming out soon, but the timing, amount and other details were far from settled.

McSwain said in a November interview that the FMC hopes to standardize language around mentoring in the federal grant solicitations that touch on this activity. She also said the council is preparing to release a new report in January that includes case studies of effective mentoring programs.

At the meeting, she announced a new website – http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org – designed to coordinate January’s National Mentoring Month volunteer-recruitment and other activities. The site features a public service announcement by retired Gen. Colin Powell and resources for local mentoring organizations. President-elect Barack Obama also cut a mentoring-month print ad for ServiceNation, one of several mentoring-related news and resource items highlighted on the new site. 

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