Mentoring Models Important to Youth Transitioning out of Care
Allows mentees to interact with other participants from similar life experiences. Youth can explore feelings about leaving care with other youth which normalizes the transition out of care experience. Group mentoring also allows for the transmission of information and skill building on relevant topics such as preparing for a job interview, finding housing and improving personal communication.
Youth participate in group mentoring workshops led by youth in care alumni. Mentors are peers who share their background, act as role models and normalize the experience of transitioning out of care. Youth participate in problem-solving discussions and shared learning.
One program model can implement several styles of mentoring that supplement one another. One-on-one mentors can be used as a support piece for a larger suite of targeted services.
Youth aging out of care and transitioning into independent living and adulthood need more tangible support and services designed to achieve very practical outcomes like independent living and higher education enrollment.
Workshops and training opportunities on a variety of topics can enhance all mentoring models: applying for financial aid, researching and choosing schools, finding a job, obtaining a birth certificate, etc.
Increasing numbers of older adolescents age out of care, transitioning from care placement to independence. Outside of the system’s care, with no financial supports or resources other than their family or peers, these youth often return to the same high-risk environment they came from.
In tailoring mentoring services to meet the distinctive needs of youth receiving child protection services, mentoring programs must operate on the foundation that relationships are at the core of youth mentoring and are ultimately the catalyst for youth change and development. Additionally, recognition that the needs of these youth will vary greatly across time and life events is crucial. The mentoring needs of a young child in care will be distinctly different from a youth who will soon be exiting the care system; youth at various ages and at different stages in the system need very different supports. Similarly, youth wind up in the child welfare system for many reasons – some have suffered substantial abuse and trauma, others have not. Programs serving youth who experienced extreme violence will require different mentoring supports. Likewise, different kinds of mentoring will benefit youth as their needs change across time, (for example adult mentor, peer mentor, group mentors) at different times to meet their needs.
Moreover, mentoring programs must be sensitive to meeting the needs of all youth receiving child protection services, including LGBT2SQ youth, ethno-cultural youth, aboriginal and youth with disabilities. LGBT2SQ youth are disproportionately represented among youth receiving services from children’s aid societies. These youth are an invisible and often forgotten minority for whom adolescence and the transition to adulthood can be especially difficult. Similarly, aboriginal youth are over-represented in child welfare systems across Canada, vastly outnumbering non-Aboriginal children in care on a proportional basis. Working with culturally diverse populations requires that organizations review and customize mentoring program activities and materials in such a way as to ensure that the information and activities have culturally appropriate content and are delivered in culturally appropriate ways. Research and practice wisdom have highlighted the need to customize mentoring programs to the unique needs, situations and cultures of the target population. vii
Finally, positive outcomes are only possible when young people are engaged in high quality mentoring relationships. Research and practice wisdom has informed the development of six core standards of practice that cover the aspects of mentoring programs that directly support their mentoring relationships: Recruitment, Screening, Training, Matching, Monitoring and Support and Closure (outlined in more detail in Section 7). Other practices shown to be effective in working with children and youth who are, or have been in receipt of child protection services should supplement these evidence based practices.