On June 20th, MENTOR and FosterClub convened a panel of experts to discuss the impact mentoring relationships and mentorship programs can have in supporting young people in foster care.
Speakers included Brittney Barros, National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council, Whitney Baker, MENTOR Nebraska, Kaysie Getty, FosterClub, Christen Glickman, Youth Villages, Krislyn Mossman, Best Kids, Inc., Shalita O’Neale, Fostering Change Network and moderated by Sadiq Ali, Maryland MENTOR.
MENTOR, the national mentoring partnership supports mentoring programs across the nation and utilizes best practices for creating and sustaining impactful mentoring relationships and strong program services. Elements of effective practice for mentoring include six core standards of practice: 1) Recruitment, 2) Screening, 3) Training, 4) Matching and Initiation, 5) Monitoring and Support, and 6) Closure.
The key message was that relationships are critical in providing support for young people whether it is through family, school, a sports team, after school or mentoring program. Relationships need to be prioritized in child welfare systems so that young people have the supports they need in school, the workforce and their personal lives. Mentorship should not be seen as a privilege for youth in foster care, but an opportunity for them to build long-term networks of adults, peers, and resources that can provide consistent and positive support for young people in foster care through adulthood.
The keynote message came from Ms. Barros who provided the definition of mentorship and shared the three levels of mentorship that were influential to her personal and professional gain. She shared how her mentor was trauma-informed and visited her group home and still supports her today. She spoke how peer-to-peer mentorship can assist young people with life skills. experience.
Brittany Barros is a FosterClub alumnus and participant with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship. She discussed her experience highlighting the common themes of each mentorship example that showed how mentors provided emotional support and empathy.
As the Executive Director of Best Kids, Inc., a District of Columbia based organization; Krislyn Mossman provides one-on-one mentoring for youth between the ages of 6 to 21. Through the program, mentors spend on average 10 hours per month in the community with their mentee and commit to a minimum of 1 year of service. With Washington DC being a transient town, recruitment and screening are essential practices for matching youth with mentors especially youth in foster care.
Ms. Mossman was on the staff of a group home, where she witnessed parents missing visitation with youth and the broken relationships that were created and how it was a factor in out-of-home placement. She described how young people aging out of the foster care system and alumni of foster care must be able to have professional development. Peer to peer models are promising.
Ms. O’Neale’s organization, Fostering Change, plans to launch a global ambassador program linking alumni of foster care with business leaders and mentors. There are over 437,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States and every year more than 20,000 young people age out of foster care. Youth in foster care often move without notice, having dedicated staff to serve as a liaison alleviates the discontinuation of services that often happens. Program characteristics of successful mentorship programs provide social capital that builds a long-lasting relationship.