“Mentees will set their own goals and work over the year to achieve them. These goals include improving family relationships, creating a network of support, getting a college or technical degree, and improving economic opportunity.”
The Bravehearts at The Children’s Village are a youth-led organization comprised of and staffed by those with lived experience in the child welfare system. Living the mantra “nothing about us, without us”, Bravehearts empowers youth to use their lived experience to promote change in systems and communities by being authentic mentors, also known as credible messengers. Credible messengers are extremely effective at CV, with rates of youth avoiding re-arrest and successfully transitioning to adulthood steadily improving because of them. Their success has not gone unnoticed.
The Bravehearts were awarded a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps) to develop a new initiative: the Braveheart AmeriCorps Mentors (BAM). Beginning in early 2021, 26 Braveheart AmeriCorps members will utilize their lived experience as young people aging out of foster care to mentor others who need guidance.
With over 15,000 locations and 75,000 members a year, AmeriCorps has been meeting critical needs in communities across the Nation for decades — but they haven’t had a lived experience and mentorship approach that looks quite like what Bravehearts offers. Jessica Grimm, founder and Director of Bravehearts, says that “BAM mentors will now focus on empowering and engaging the youth voice in the communities they serve. Mentees will set their own goals and work over the year to achieve them. These goals include improving family relationships, creating a network of support, getting a college or technical degree, and improving economic opportunity.”
Partnering with AmeriCorps also allows the Bravehearts to expand into 6 new counties: the Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and Duchess. At The Children’s Village, we are thrilled! We have long invested in expanding credible messengers, and this new AmeriCorps Bravehearts partnership will take the lived experience model to the next level. It is wonderful to see the program get the recognition and value it deserves.
Evidence Supports Credible Messengers
An Urban Institute study of CV’s ARCHES program showed that using Credible Messengers as mentors:
• Reduced one-year felony reconviction rate by over two-thirds
• Reduced two-year felony reconviction rate by over half, with especially profound impacts for the youngest program participants.