New program mentors children of South Mississippi inmates

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Child Abuse Prevention Center recently received a $225,000 federal grant to start a new mentoring program. The goal is to prevent children of inmates from following their parent's path to jail.

Keshyric Tillman is one of the new mentors. The 18-year old Harrison Central High senior, known as K.T., helped organized a fashion show in April and raised more than $1,600 for the Child Abuse Prevention Center.

"It's going to be Child Abuse Month, and we had to do something you know," K.T. said. "I went through a lot as a child, and I have a lot of family members who have been abused."

While working on the project, K.T. learned about a new program the center just started called Mentoring Children of Prisoners.

"They're very vulnerable. We're trying to keep them from going back into the system like the parent is doing," said Heidi Sorber, Child Abuse Prevention Center's Case Management Coordinator and Trainer. "Mississippi has had a lot of trouble between Katrina and BP. We've gotten a lot more inmates. There's 45,000 inmates in just Mississippi alone."

K.T. has a personal reason for wanting to be a role model to children, whose parents are serving time. Many of them are imprisoned far from home.

"My father and my mom were in jail. I was raised by my grandma," K.T. said. "I learned from my living, yeah, a lot of people go to jail. And you can't sit back and think that's going to put you down. It's not."

K.T. is mentoring a 13 year boy.

"I've been through exactly the same thing he's been through, and that's why I think he was the perfect person for me to mentor," said K.T. "Just had a little hang out time, just so I can see how I can fix his problem and how I can get him to see that the world is not just filled with angry people. It has people like me, friendly people that you can get along with."

"He's making a huge difference already," said Sorber. "I'm just so excited. It really encourages me about the youths of today."

The program has matched 20 children with mentors. The federal grant can help up to 75 children. The center still needs more mentors. If you are interested, just call the Child Abuse Prevention Center at (228) 868-8686.

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