Best Practices for the Screening of Mentees
for Programs Serving Youth Who Are, Or Have Been In Receipt Of Child Protection Services:
Having a face-to-face interview with potential mentees provides mentoring program staff with a tool to allow them to gather appropriate information to determine eligibility, to determine the type of mentoring from which the youth will benefit the most and to make a mentoring match that will be connected and healthy. In addition, it allows for the development of positive rapport with guardians or the child welfare staff in order to facilitate successful match support, for orientation to the program and to mentoring. It additionally allows for solid engagement of the youth in order to clearly understand interest in participation.
It is also essential to begin to build a relationship with the youth. This process should gather important information about the youth’s current behaviour and current relationships from the guardian’s perspective and give a sense, from the youth, how they interact with adults, and what activities and personal traits might be important to them in connecting with a mentor.
The process of getting matched involves many steps over a span of time; under certain circumstances this time period can be quite lengthy. Because it is possible that information critical to the success of the match may have been discussed six months before the actual match happens, mentoring program staff should gather “what you need to know, when you need to know it”. For example, the information needed to determine eligibility is different from the information you need to know to make a solid match; if it’s unlikely the youth will be matched for a lengthy period of time, consider gathering matching information closer to the actual date.
Assessing youth will also assist in gathering information necessary to determine the child’s needs and strengths to 1) match them to an appropriate volunteer mentor; and 2) to match them to the type of mentoring most likely to address the gap between their needs and strengths. Not every child will benefit from every program.
Motivation and expectations
Discussing motivation for wanting a mentor provides opportunity to understand which mentoring type might best suit the young person’s needs and expectations. Matching expectations with intended program outcomes is a meaningful way to improve the likelihood that the young person will stay committed to the program/match relationship. This is an ideal time to begin to assess whether the youth and guardian are appropriate for the program and can fulfill the responsibilities of their role.
Interviewer should have an understanding of why the guardian wants a mentor for the youth, their expectations, and why they are applying now. Interviewer should additionally have an understanding of why the youth wants a mentor and whether the youth’s motivations and expectations align with the guardian’s expectations and motivations. Do they have a good understanding of the program? Are their expectations reasonable? What will they get out of being involved?
include requesting a mentor for unrealistic reasons, for a babysitting service, as respite or if the reasons shared by the guardian do not align with the reasons shared by the young person. Other considerations include that the needs of the young person are not conducive to participating in the program (eg. adolescents overwhelmed by behavioural problems are less likely to benefit from mentoring), the child is involved in many other extracurricular activities or, most importantly, does not want to have a mentor or is incapable of understanding child safety principles.
Child’s Background, Personality and Relationship Style
Experiences that the young person has had in other relationships with adults will be brought to this mentoring relationship; the mentor will need to handle the residue of negative relationships. Mentoring programs make the most difference with those youth who are capable of forming relationships with non-familial adults however, because of the circumstances related to their environment, are not exposed to appropriate role models. Gathering this information should help to build rapport with the guardian and with the young person and contribute to the ability to form a good match.
There is also value to measuring youth risk at intake—both the environmental and individual challenges youth may be experiencing will have important implications for the match’s success—the specific types of challenges mentors are most likely to experience and the types of supports that may be most helpful. Some youth in care have had such negative relationships with adults that they are unable to benefit from a one-to-one mentoring relationship. The youth may profit more from mentoring with adults/peers in groups so they are not required to get “too close”
Interviewer should have a clear understanding of important relationships in the young person’s life and the health of current relationships with family members. Additionally, interviewer should have a high level understanding of the family background and current family situation to assess stability, support networks, and conflict. It is a good idea to have an understanding of the quality of important relationships and the dynamics in those relationships so that change over time can be better assessed. Finally, the interviewer will want to determine if the child/youth knows how to be in relationship with other adults.
include an inability to connect, poor boundaries related to other relationships, lack of support (and possibly active negative involvement) by non-custodial parent. Relationships with youth who sustained long-term or severe emotional, sexual or physical abuse are more likely to terminate prematurely