On Friday, I was honored to join General Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and Dr. Jill Biden, the Second Lady of the United States – and a proud Blue Star mom – at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s National Conference, “Children’s Justice & Safety: Unite, Build, Lead.”
During this three-day conference, more than 2,500 juvenile justice practitioners and experts gathered to reflect upon and redouble current efforts to build a brighter, more secure, and more just future for our nation’s young people. This year’s conference closed with a special focus on supporting those who sacrifice so much in support of their country: our military families, and particularly the children of our service men and women.
Every day – and often without adequate support structures – many young people across our nation are forced to contend with deployment, separation, and even loss. And although they share a powerful bond, some of the challenges Blue Star families face are unique – and, for many, they have never been greater. But neither has our collective resolve to ensure that none of them – and, especially, no child in this country – has to face these challenges alone.
Since Day One, the entire Obama Administration – and Dr. Biden, in particular – have made military families a priority, committing to not only support them during periods of deployment but also to recognize – and honor – the strength and courage that they display on a daily basis. It was in this spirit that Dr. Biden launched the Joining Forces initiative with First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year, challenging all Americans to find ways to support our military families.
To help take those efforts to the next level, on Friday, we announced a series of grants – made possible by a new Justice Department and Department of Defense partnership – to launch and maintain mentoring programs specifically targeting children with a parent in the military.
In all, more than $15 million in grants will be awarded to help fund training and mentorship initiatives administered by three leading national service organizations: the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, and the National 4-H Council. More than $3 million in additional grants have been awarded to multi-state mentoring initiatives, including the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, KidsPeace, and others.
These grants will help military kids develop resiliency skills, connect with other military families, acquire career training, and become involved in their communities. Above all, they will allow America’s next generation of leaders to realize their potential and to seize tomorrow’s opportunities.
With the help of these mentoring organizations, the dedication of every American, and the perseverance of our brave military families, I’m optimistic about where we will go from here as we strive to make our nation better for all of its children.
To learn more about the how the Departments of Justice and Defense are joining forces to support military families and children, visit: http://www.justice.gov/joiningforces/