Success Story - Girls & Gangs

Monday, August 1, 2011 (All day)

Community Partners has had over 550 projects move through our fiscal sponsorship program since we began in 1992, including our 115 currently active projects. We like to keep in touch with our past projects so that we can gain insight into the long-term effectiveness of our services as well as celebrate with projects that have gone on to develop, grow, and have impact.

One of those projects is Girls & Gangs. For its first decade, Girls & Gangs was a project of Community Partners. In July 2009, they spun off to become their own nonprofit organization. We recently asked them to share some of the highlights of their growth and development since then, as well as to shed light on the issues they are addressing in our communities.

Arlene Honbo, current board chair of Girls & Gangs, tells the story:

"Girls & Gangs serves a population in critical need of services; we continue to be the only nonprofit organization in Los Angeles County solely dedicated to serving girls, ages 12-18, in the juvenile justice system. We do this through the delivery of re-entry services, community educational workshops, advocacy, trainings, and technical services.

Nationally, girls are the fastest growing population in the juvenile justice system. In Los Angeles County alone, girls account for one out of every four juveniles arrested. In the past 10 years - for violent crimes committed by juveniles - boys increased 86% and girls increased 300%. To paint a picture of the girls we work with, 20% are pregnant or parenting, 40% are victims of sex trafficking, and 70-90% are victims of sexual abuse. During the time of services, 80% are incarcerated and the other 20% are on probation.

We are delighted to have continually built our staffing capacity to serve this population. When we became our own nonprofit organization in 2009, we were serving 300 girls with only two full-time staff. Today, we have grown to nearly eight full-time employees. Responsible for much of this growth is our our executive director Dawn L. Brown. Dawn was our first paid director, hired in March 2009. In addition to directing and expanding all program services, Dawn has been responsible for implementing the needed support structure previously provided by Community Partners, including necessary HR and accounting policies and procedures. Dawn was also instrumental in designing our website, which profiles our girls, staff and board, and features online donation capabilities.

Since becoming our own nonprofit organization, we have expanded our programs significantly. We have added intensive case management and educational empowerment programs to our comprehensive services, as well as relaunched an individual mentoring service. Additionally, we have started a new advocacy project designed to improve our capacity to bring awareness to key issues facing the girls we serve, and to advocate for policy changes in Los Angeles County. Our goal is to eliminate gender bias and improve the overall quality of services provided for girls.

One of our organizational strengths is that we're able to demonstrate that our results are cost-effective and significant. To put things into perspective, it costs the Los Angeles County Probation Department $250 a day to keep a girl incarcerated and it costs LA County an average of $90,000 to incarcerate one child over the course of one year. In comparison, it only costs $2200 for one girl to participate in 12 months of our program. In addition to costing significantly less, participation in Girls and Gangs' programs incite real change in the lives of these young girls. One year after participation in our program, 85% of the girls have not reentered the juveline justice system; proof that many of these young lives are transformed!

Community Partners equipped Girls & Gangs with the resources and wisdom to flourish on our own. They were an invaluable resource to building a strong foundation, having provided us with the necessary model to do high-quality work with purpose. Our numbers only show a glimpse of the overall success of our organization; our capacity to impact the lives of young girls has grown immeasurably. We are extremely grateful to Community Partners for their services as our fiscal sponsor, and we will always consider ourselves a member of their larger family."

For more information Girls & Gangs, please visit their website at www.GirlsandGangs.org.