Social Network Map of Youth in Foster Care xi
Mentor programs that want to create safe spaces and serve all youth should have this reflected in their program and organizational policies. all staff, volunteers and youth should be made aware of these policies which expect safety and respect for all.
- Increase mentors’ understanding of the issues faced by youth who are receiving child protection services which will assist mentors in setting realistic expectations for the mentoring relationship, particularly regarding reciprocity in the early stages of the relationship.
- Provide opportunities for experienced mentors, whenever possible, to present about their experiences as a mentor.
- Teach mentors about matters of confidentiality. Require them to sign a confidentiality agreement. Rules of confidentiality should protect youth from involuntary disclosure about their sexual and/or gender identity.
- Review program policies about contact between the mentor and the youth’s biological or foster family, as well as the requirements to keep program staff informed of such contact. Mentors should understand need for communication with caregiver(s) and program staff.
- Help mentors understand that many youth in care have experienced separation and loss in their lives; because of this, it can be difficult or more time consuming for them to form a trusting relationship with an adult. Mentors should be trained to persist and work through the initial resistance to trusting adults and forming a mentoring relationship. Guide mentors to interpret lack of follow-through or communication by the youth as a need for more support.
- Recommend strategies for building a relationship with youth. Mentors must be able to connect with and help transform the youth they are working with. Emphasize concepts such as:
- Expressing yourself clearly, both verbally and nonverbally
- Being able to listen to how the youth feels; giving youth a voice
- Responding in positive and appropriate ways, even when the mentor is frustrated.
- Being nonjudgmental
- Respecting the youth’s confidence (except when it may impact the health and welfare of others)
- Not being surprised or upset if the youth lies about something; recognizing that this is often just a coping mechanism for deeper issues that the mentor can address
- Offering suggestions about problems the youth is having, but not dictating what the youth should do (and accepting that the youth may make some bad decisions)
- Keeping the commitment over time; no quitting!
- Being positive, even when talking about difficult or painful topics
- Knowing that there will be ups and downs along the way, and using disappointments and frustrations as an opportunity to grow the relationship
xi Blakeslee, J (in press). “Expanding the scope of research with transition-age foster youth: Applications of the social network perspective.”