- 75% work below grade level
- 60% of girls have a child within 4 years
- 50% do not complete high school
- 45% are unemployed
- 33% are arrested
- 30% are on welfare at ages 18–24
- 26% spend time in jail or prison
- 25% are homeless
- 10% are on probation
If handled properly, a mentoring relationship can boost the outcomes for youth who have been in the foster care system. Though results are uneven, researchers have indicated that youth who have been mentored for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 18 are more likely than their unmentored peers to report overall health, and are at a lower risk for STDs, violence, suicidal thoughts, and other dangers. Statistics for participation in higher education and vocational training also seem to promise a significant monetary ROI for mentoring programs.
Here is the caveat you knew to expect: program managers should tread carefully, for a mentoring relationship can cause significant harm if set up improperly.Because youth in care have already experienced—sometimes repeatedly—ruptures to significant relationships, inconsistent mentoring can be detrimental to their wellbeing. Experts go so far as to say that a poor match is worse than nothing at all.
- recruiting youth who actively desire a mentor;
- knowing what youth want, need, and hope to gain from mentoring;
- conducting rigorous recruiting, screening, and training for mentors;
- providing mentors with ongoing support;
- setting very clear goals, expectations, and parameters for the relationship;
- having both parties check in regularly with a third party tasked with monitoring the relationship;
- involving a parent, caretaker, and/or case manager that supports the mentoring relationship; and
- coordinating with other programs and services.
I am trying to figure out how to relate all this to the needs of four young people who hold leadership positions on a Youth Advisory Board. I tossed around the idea of having board members of the parent organization (a non-profit) mentor the youth for the duration of their office, and the program coordinator loved it. But we now have to figure out exactly what that would entail, and how we could go about it. I envision the relationship to be of a very specific nature: “board member to board member,” so to speak. I don’t want it to be a logistical burden—it’s challenging enough for youth to attend their monthly meetings—but I also think it’s very important for there to be regular and significant contact with their mentors. Last year I was fortunate to speak to someone who developed a mentoring curriculum that relies largely on weekly email prompts to get conversations going between mentors and youth. I look forward to speaking with her again tomorrow for more advice on mentoring practices.