Editor's Note: The following is a news release issued by Lawrence Township-based PEI Kids.
A $25,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the City of Trenton will help PEI Kids - a Mercer County nonprofit dedicated to keeping children safe - continue to serve at-risk teenage clients via its highly regarded Comprehensive Juvenile Offenders Outreach Services (CJOOS) program.
The federal CDBG Program provides cities with funds to help meet the needs of low and moderate income residents. Trenton receives an annual CDBG allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support a variety of local services and for community improvement.
PEI Kids' Comprehensive Juvenile Offenders Outreach Services (CJOOS) program is a 16-week court-mandated program for first or second time juvenile offenders on probation.
It boasts a strong and well-established track record of helping participants experience reduced recidivism (re-arrest); improve educational and job skills; increase understanding of positive ways to manage emotions; and gain knowledge of positive alternatives to gang culture. Traditionally, more than 95% of program participants are from Trenton; and 100% of them are from low-to-moderate income families.
"Having served more than 1,250 local at-risk juveniles in the past decade, this program helps at-risk youth build skills and make better choices, which leads to more employable productive citizens and stronger, safer communities," state Penny Ettinger, PEI Kids Executive Director.
"This support comes at a critical time for PEI Kids, and I would especially like to thank Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who supported our funding request and is a true advocate for the children of New Jersey. We also value our strong relationships with Mercer County Juvenile Probation Department and Family Court, who share our dedication to redirecting at-risk juveniles before they become habitual offenders."
Program evaluations show that PEI Kids' CJOOS graduates (age 11-17) consistently avoid re-arrest, pursue constructive activities and improve their lives. This, in turn, benefits the local community. As the number of gangs in Mercer County, particularly Trenton, continues to increase at a rapid rate, gang prevention and intervention are also core elements of the CJOOS curriculum.
"During an average program session, you will find members of several area gangs sitting side by side getting to know one another and interacting in positive ways," explains Ettinger. "After they graduate from the program, many youth voluntarily return due to the positive atmosphere it provides. It is truly a benefit to these children and our community."
About PEI Kids:
PEI Kids’ aspiration for the children of Mercer County, NJ, is “Safe Kids, Sound Futures.” Currently serving approximately 16,000 children and their families each year, the nonprofit organization began in 1985 when, while working at a rape crisis center, its founders discovered there were no local services for children who had been sexually abused.
For the past 27 years, its mission has been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children. Its services now include Prevention/Education and Intervention programs relating to personal safety; physical and sexual abuse; understanding physical and educational differences; school safety and bullying; anger management; gang prevention; and the overall well-being of the child and family. It is also the lead agency of the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse.
To learn more about PEI Kids’ many programs and services for Mercer County children and families, and how you can support its efforts, please call 609-695-3739 or visit http://www.peikids.org. All calls regarding possible abuse are confidential.