- Include role-plays as part of training. These hypothetical situations give perspective mentors an opportunity to explore various ways of responding to their mentees and test their communication skills.
- Incorporate an Advocacy and Teaching Role: The traditional role mentors play may not be sufficient for mentoring youth in/leaving care. An effective approach when working with higher-risk populations of youth is for the mentor to also serve as an advocate, building a community of support for the youth. Mentors should be taught how to help youth access appropriate resources and programs, how to navigate social service systems (for example, welfare agencies, juvenile justice, foster care) and how to access other environmental resources (for example, in the youth’s neighborhood) that may be crucial to bolstering mentors’ efforts and reinforcing youth gains. Mentors should be trained on the appropriate boundaries and strategies of operationalizing this new role. (see appendix E for what advocacy might look like for LGBT2SQ youth in mentoring relationships)
- Given that many youth in care have histories of abuse or neglect, it is recommended that mentors be trained in trauma informed care; they must understand the behavioural manifestations of trauma; how that manifests itself in a relationship with an adult the youth doesn’t know and may not trust, and learn how to effectively minimize its effects without causing additional trauma.
- Diversity and cultural responsiveness should be a common theme throughout training. It is not a unit of training, rather it should be a constant theme through the process and the journey. Mentoring relationships should support development in a way that reflects both individual and cultural identity, and value diversity. Children involved in the child welfare system are extremely heterogeneous with regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. Children in care can sometimes be placed in neighbourhoods that are strikingly different from their own, with caregivers of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds; even these differences are not static because they change when children change placements. If the mentors are not from the targeted community then training on the specific cultural context of the program will need to be provided.
- For mentors from diverse populations, formal mentoring may be a new and intimidating prospect and the program staff will need to provide training and on-going support to each mentor to ensure they are successful. For most diverse populations, especially for Aboriginal mentors, the training they receive will need to be grounded in their culture and be directly applicable to being a mentor. The training will need to provide practical information that can be easily applied in the program.
- All mentors should receive training about working with LGBT2SQ youth and be provided with information about the issues and needs of these adolescents. A youth may start the program before coming out as LGBT2SQ and mentors should be trained how to support the youth with this kind of disclosure and in the youth’s decision to tell others about his or her sexual or gender identity. It is also critical that mentors understand their own feelings about homosexuality.
"We see a lot of newcomer youth here at SOY. They did not grow up in the West. Often they are here from countries where it is illegal to be LGBT2SQ. One of the reasons that we extended the age of SOY up to 29 is that if you had to hide who you were for your safety, you have to come out later. So if you come out when you’re 24, it’s different. One young man said that he knows that it’s ok to come out in Canada, but he can’t stop looking over his shoulder. Some have a family member who might have supported them, but many of them are really missing the love from their families. Some have a lot of fear that they don’t want a mentor from their same ethno-cultural background because they are afraid it will get back to their family, but other youth are very excited to have a mentor who is like them. I’ve learned to make no assumption about what youth want or need but to listen to what the youth want.”
- Leslie Chudnovsky, Supporting Our Youth (SOY)
“We have one youth transitioning. A female transitioning to male. It’s been a learning experience for us. We’ve had a lot of communication between the caseworker, the foster parents, and the youth. We are trying to accommodate the youth’s needs. Even though the youth is transitioning to male, he still wanted a female mentor. We have provided some specific support for the mentor. And we have had speakers come to speak to the group as a whole so that the youth who is transitioning would feel comfortable in that setting.”
– Kim Megyesi, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Saskatoon