Mentoring Youth cont'd (6c) - Working With Aboriginal Youth

Working with Aboriginal Youth

Research has demonstrated that Aboriginal youth are more effectively served by a group mentoring model, where mentors and children and youth interact together rather than in traditional one-to-one scenarios (Bisanz, J. et al. 2003).

Aboriginal communities have a history of group practice in the education and support of their children. A group mentoring model not only recognizes this important cultural practice, but builds upon it.

Although traditional mentoring programs sometimes serve youth who are involved in the child welfare system in the context of their regular mentoring programs, in most cases traditional mentoring programs are ill-equipped to deal with the special needs of these youth. Despite well-intentioned efforts, mentoring programs that are not equipped to support these youth risk perpetuating the damaging cycle of chronic loss that is common for this population. Mentoring programs for youth involved in the child welfare system are different from traditional youth mentoring programs. Some of the unique characteristics of effective mentoring programs for children and youth who are, or have been in receipt of child protection services are:

  • A great deal of support for mentors and mentees from program staff
  • A program focus that goes beyond building mentoring relationships to helping youth develop life skills such as problem solving and goal setting
  • Linkages to community resources to enable youth to successfully transition to independence when they age out of the care system
  • Comprehensive training for both mentors and program staff
“In general, we know that for newcomer youth, one on one mentoring is not something the population is familiar with or comfortable with. The idea of mentoring usually exists as something that happens organically in a large extended family. In introducing a mentoring relationship, it raises eyebrows. Group mentoring is more successful, especially when it’s tied to school. It’s easier to introduce because it’s seen as an extension of the school. Homework help or something related to academic success is more comfortable for families. And they already have some trust in schools. The group mentoring is focused on building relationships and reducing social isolation in the school…”
- Nooreen Pribhai, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada