Forgiveness for Teens


Our clients are teen boys, ages 13-20 who are court-ordered into our care by the Milwaukee County Juvenile Court system. They live at our facilities 24/7 where we provide programming and experiences that will move them in positive ways towards adulthood without further contact with the criminal justice system. Our boys typically come from dysfunctional families, violent and chaotic neighborhoods, with family often struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues. They are often lured to criminal behavior as an alternative and a reaction to their circumstances. Through our extensive programming, we offer young men ways to think about those circumstances differently and to rise above them to succeed.


One of the many programs we offer for young men in our care is Forgiveness for Teens; an avenue for them to explore the healing and restorative powers of the act of forgiveness. Using forgiveness as an option, many of our young men can learn to quell anger and revenge, often a centerpiece to inner-city life.

To that end, we teamed with UW-Madison’s International Institute of Forgiveness in 2010 to explore a program tailored to our population. The Institute has developed programs which are researched-based, with a pre- and post-test to determine effectiveness and measure a clearer understanding of empathy and healing. We wrote a grant that allowed us to collaborate with UW-Madison to develop an 8 week session suited to inner-city teens, especially ones involved in the criminal justice system. Since then, hundreds of young people have been involved in the program with a good measure of success, particularly as it applies to family transgressions, anger, and temper control. Interestingly, through our group work and one-on-one counseling, it has surprised us to learn that a common theme from the boys is the issue of forgiving themselves as they move forward to learn to forgive others.


The Forgiveness for Teens program is unique to the Nehemiah Project. The concept has applications beyond our young men and we are pleased to say we have worked collaboratively with other agencies/organizations to be able to offer the program in the greater community including MPS, Hope St. Ministries, and Our Safe Place. We are hopeful to continue to expand this outreach to children in Milwaukee. The program is completely funded through donors, both individuals and foundation grants.