By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — The population of the village it takes to raise a child has just increased by one in Clayton County with a mentoring program aimed at troubled kids.
Clyde Forbes, executive director of HBC Mentoring Program, said he is partnering with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department. The program has the endorsement of Clayton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Steve Teske.
"We will be using his organization for both diverted youth and probated youth to prevent delinquency by breaking up the anti-social peer network that gets many of these kids in trouble," said Teske. "The research is quite clear that anti-social peers are one of eight delinquency-producing factors that requires pro-social programs like mentoring to create a disconnect from those type of friends. Mentoring programs are on the list of evidence-based practices."
Forbes said the organization has nine volunteer mentors and is looking for a meeting location. The group also needs business sponsors.
"Finding the kids won't be the problem," he said.
Forbes said he hopes it will all come together by the end of July. He has a similar program in Spalding County and said he was surprised to learn Clayton County doesn't have one. It is important the children know how valued they are, he said.
"I've been doing this eight or nine years," said Forbes. "I've met kids 12 years old who've told me they couldn't see their lives beyond a year or so. All they see is doom and gloom for the future."
He said young people are in a "state of emergency."
"They are our future leaders and we've got to lay the proper foundation today," said Forbes. "If they are not prepared today to embrace tomorrow, all our tomorrows are affected. We're in a state of emergency and these kids are throwing their lives away. We need to get them back on track."
Young people seem to be more influenced by negative behaviors than positive ones. Mentoring can change that, he said.
"Kids are around lots of negative influences, how to rob and get involved in devious behavior instead of looking for jobs," said Forbes. "They can look to a mentor and see that they don't have to dress like that and talk vulgar."
With so many kids from single-parent homes basically raising themselves, Forbes said adult supervision and guidance are paramount to their successes as adults.
"They are our future," he said. "We can have a long-term affect on them. We can change a generation and that's what we're here to do."
Teske said Forbes interviewed with DJJ a month ago as part of the preferred-provider application process required before kids are allowed to be referred to the program.
"They have been approved and will be meeting with probation officers to make a presentation and pitch to send kids to them," said Teske. "My people who assess the quality of programs seeking to work with our kids were very impressed with him and his organization."
Forbes said he will meet with those officials July 18.
To reach Forbes, access www.hcbmentoringprogram.net or call him at 404-537-6711.