While several area school districts offer mentoring programs, the Effingham County Probation Department is recognizing a need for a similar program under its jurisdiction.
"We have been recognizing a need for mentoring with some of our teens on probation," said Chief Probation Officer Cheryl Meyers. "We believe there are some things to be gained from having such a program."
The program would be funded with part of the $200,000 granted to the Fourth Judicial Circuit from the Illinois Juvenile Redeploy Initiative. Meyers sees her program as filling a gap that exists in the mentoring field.
"Unit 40 does not match mentors after a certain age," Meyers said. "So, we are looking at setting up some sort of program for older kids who come through our system."
Meyers said children as young as 12 or 13 are on probation in Effingham County.
Meyers added the program is ready for implementation.
"We're really beyond the talking stage," she said. "Our biggest concern is being able to fund the program for an extended period of time.
"The last thing we want to do is get a program started and then find out we don't have the money," she said. "We want to make sure these kids are being taken care of."
Meyers said she hopes to have a program in place by sometime next year. The program's annual budget, she said, would be about $25,000, enough to hire a part-time facilitator. She added that the Cra-Wa-La social service agency in Lawrenceville has offered to help sustain the program.
Effingham Unit 40 mentoring Coordinator Kim Varner said while Unit 40 cannot officially partner with the probation department, she endorses the probation department's efforts, particularly in cases where kids may need help beyond the scope of her program.
"Unfortunately, some kids need a more intensive program," she said. "I see my role as that of an encourager and cheerleader."
Varner likes how Meyers is approaching the new program.
"She is being very cautious and wise about it."
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.