LIFE Program Promotes Meaningful Connections
For more than 30 years, Centerforce has been a national leader in providing groundbreaking, evidence-based programs to improve the lives and strengthen the communities of incarcerated people and their loved ones.
Based in the San Francisco Bay area, the non-profit Centerforce organization develops and delivers innovative solutions by providing health education and family programs to this often neglected community. The aim of Centerforce’s programs and services is to:
• Foster transformative experiences during incarceration
• Promote ties between incarcerated people and their families to improve quality of life, support successful re-entry, and decrease re-incarceration
• Assist individuals in gaining access to needed services before and during re-entry to support successful re-entry and decrease re-incarceration
• Recognize the impact that incarceration has on the entire family and social system, and the importance of supporting all people whose lives are impacted by incarceration
• Educate men, women, and families about important health concerns that disproportionately affect people in prison
One of Centerforce’s noteworthy initiatives is its Leaders in Future Environments (LIFE) youth mentoring program. LIFE is a program for children of incarcerated parents, promoting meaningful connections between youth and caring adults in the community to increase youth potential for leadership and positive community involvement.
During the late 1990s, a group of volunteers took on the much needed task of addressing the challenges incarcerated parents face. In the process of working with incarcerated parents, the volunteers recognized the need to celebrate the strengths and unique qualities of the children who have been impacted by parental incarceration. Jo Chapman led these volunteers as they set out to create a safe place for youth to participate in positive recreational activities. With this concept in mind, they created what is today known as the LIFE Project, a program of Centerforce.
In the California counties of Alameda, Contra-Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo; there are approximately 27,503 children of incarcerated parents. Serving youth between the ages of 11 and 17 living in the San Francisco Bay area, the LIFE Project provides ongoing support and positive role models to youth who have been impacted by parental incarceration. The LIFE Project accomplishes this by providing one-on-one mentoring, group activities every six weeks, and an annual retreat that focuses on the special needs and unique challenges that their mentees face.
The LIFE Project focuses on helping youth develop their capacity to succeed in education and in life. By empowering youth to make good decisions and set positive goals, the LIFE Project strives to:
• Build youth self-esteem and confidence
• Encourage on-going communication and relationship building with their incarcerated parent
• Expose youth to new life enriching experiences
• Provide peer support and adult role models
• Promote healthy life choices
• Strengthen family and peer relations
• Support academic achievement and positive attitudes towards education
All program mentors and volunteers must go through a background check, reference check, and an in-person interview. To be a mentor, volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, successfully complete a 2-day mentor training, and commit to one year of mentoring. LIFE staff train mentors on the impact of incarceration on children and families and supervise the mentors as they develop one-to-one relationships with the youth they are matched with.
For more information, contact the LIFE Project Coordinator at 415-456-9980 ext.117 or e-mail LIFEProject@Centerforce.org