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Best Practices
Best Practice Guidelines for Foster Care Youth Mentoring

  1. Building Organizational Capacity
  2. Working With Mentors
  3. Working With Mentees
  4. Working With Case Workers

1. Building Organizational Capacity

Awareness - Mentoring needs to be considered an integral part of services for youth.

  • Educate senior management and board members about the importance of mentoring and how it complements the organization’s mission in order to guarantee that mentoring is supported agency-wide.
Personnel
  • Identify primary person(s) whose job will be to administer the mentoring program. If a staff member oversees the mentoring program as one job among several, provide a clear job description that outlines specific tasks and responsibilities.
  • Consider a two-person mentoring team that would share management of the mentoring program at your organization. If your program is site-based, be sure to have a site coordinator.
  • Encourage mentoring coordinator(s) to participate in training workshops and peer networking events to share the successes and challenges of the mentoring program.

Program Structure

  • Determine what model of mentoring program is most appropriate for the youth you are serving (site-based or community-based). Consider mixing models to maximize resources and staffing.
  • Require caseworkers to include progress notes on the youth’s mentoring relationship into the UCR/Case Record.

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2. Working With Mentors

Recruitment

  • Partner with other mentoring organizations on recruitment drives and public awareness campaigns. Feature your foster care mentoring program prominently on your organization’s web site and c reate marketing materials showcasing mentoring foster care youth.
  • Collaborate with the Administration for Children’s Services’ Central Mentoring Office to receive appropriate referrals of potential mentors.

Screening Procedures

*Should take no more than two-three months

  • Use a mentor application
  • Conduct an interview: Gives the prospective mentor an opportunity to examine his or her own commitment prior to matching so as not to add to the foster youth’s burden of disrupted relationships
  • Require candidate to give 2-3 references
  • Require a criminal background check (consider SafetyNet)

Training Principals

  • Include a description of the child welfare system and how your particular agency works within this social service network.
  • Help the mentors develop an understanding of the unique needs of youth in foster care and highlight how mentoring can become a vital part of a youth’s support network.
  • Help mentors understand that many foster children have experienced separation and loss in their lives; because of this, it can be difficult or more time consuming for foster children to form a trusting relationship with an adult.
  • Share studies which show how involvement in a positive and consistent mentoring relationship leads to a profound improvement in the foster youth’s ability to function and thereby succeed as a productive member of society.
  • A mentor may be the only person connected to a youth in foster care who is not paid or seen as being in an authoritative position. Clearly outline the role of the mentor in relation to:
  • mentee
  • mentoring program coordinator,
  • case worker,
  • group home staff or foster parents/guardians
  • biological parents
  • Teach mentors about matters of confidentiality. Require them to sign a confidentiality agreement.
  • Discuss signs of neglect and abuse and what to do if a mentor should encounter such a situation.
  • Always impart an upbeat attitude of confidence and communicate the idea that most children, no matter how deprived or abused, can gain from mentoring.
  • Help the prospective mentor understand the importance of individualizing the young person by focusing on their strengths and appreciating their resiliency.
  • Offer on-going training opportunities

Training Components

  • Provide a concise training manual complete with procedures and contact information in case of an emergency.
  • Be sure to include role-plays as part of your training – these hypothetical scenarios give participants an opportunity to explore various ways of responding to their mentees and test their communication skills.
  • Arrange for a current mentor/mentee match to speak, if possible.
  • Consider organizing a “mixer-type” event with food and some sort of activity as the first meeting between the match to alleviate any anxiety. This mixer can also be helpful for both parties to see their peers embarking on the same mentoring adventure!

Supervision/Administration

  • Create a standardized form that tracks
    • number of meetings between the mentor/mentee pairs,
    • meetings of coordinator with mentors and mentees
    • other progress notes.
  • Create opportunities for group observations through field trips, holiday events, etc.
  • Schedule and emphasize the importance of attendance at feedback/de-briefings sessions for mentors.
  • Establish a policy for continuing relationship with mentor and/or mentoring program after youth ages out of foster care or gets transferred to another agency.

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3. Working With Mentees

Recruitment

  • Create marketing materials specifically geared towards foster care youth.
  • Identify youth for mentoring - consider priority to:
    • youth with no visitors/families
    • youth referred by caseworkers/independent living staff
    • youth who have sufficient self-control.

Matching process

  • Create a standard mentee application and contract.
  • Consent form for youth (to be signed by appropriate caretaker)
  • Schedule an interview with each potential youth candidate to determine his or her needs as well as desire to commit to a mentor/mentee relationship.

Mentee training program

  • Have a speaker(s) explain the basis of a mentor/mentee relationship and outline the benefits of having a mentor including but not limited to ways it can aid them in the future such as providing guidance with college and career planning.
  • Arrange for a current mentor/mentee match to speak, if possible.
  • Stress that it is the very relationship itself that can be its own greatest reward.
  • Consider creating or securing a video training guide for some of the training presentations.
  • Establish on-going workshops/wrap sessions for the mentees to debrief about their mentor/mentee relationship – Maintaining a young person’s enthusiasm for and interest in the mentor relationship is vital!

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4. Working With Case Workers

Training - Incorporate mentoring into trainings for all incoming and current caseworkers, supervisors and independent living staff.

Expectations for the mentoring relationship

  • Highlight how mentoring can fit into the life of a youth in foster care; clarify how mentoring can help the caseworker achieve their goals for the youth in their caseload.
  • Emphasize that mentoring is an entitlement and must not be taken away as a form of punishment. Mentoring needs to be clearly STATED as a part of services for youth.
  • Instruct on how to assess a youth’s preparedness for mentoring as well as his potential placement in a one on one or group mentoring relationship. Priority should be extended to youth with no visitors/families and those with sufficient self-control.
  • Demonstrate how they can assess the progress of a mentee within the mentor/mentee relationship through case management procedures.
  • Show the caseworker how to partner with a mentor while understanding the limits of what information can and should be shared with them.
  • Emphasize that the relationship is the focus of the mentor/mentee interactions. Concrete objectives can only be achieved when a solid relationship has been established.
  • Include progress notes into the case record of the youth for tracking purposes and to involve the foster parents who can play an active role in facilitating visits and outings with a mentor.
  • Create procedures that would maintain information on current mentor/mentee matches even if a youth is moved from one agency to the next. In many cases, the mentoring relationship may have been established at a primary agency, but the secondary agency may have no record of that relationship and/or may not understand how important it is to the youth that the relationship be allowed to continue.
  • Develop a policy for continuing the mentoring relationship even if the foster care youth is adopted - emphasizing the importance of the mentor as a consistent, positive relationship in the young person’s life to the adoptive parents.

Referrals (how/where to refer a youth who could benefit from mentoring)

  • At large social service agencies, caseworkers should check first if their agency has a pre-existing mentoring program that accepts youth referrals.
  • If the agency does not have an existing mentoring program, agencies can contact the Administration for Children’s Services’ Central Mentoring Office, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, Mentoring Partnership of New York, and/or Mentoring USA.

* For sample application for potential mentors and youth candidates, sample role plays, intake forms, mentor contact logs, evaluation protocols, and research on foster care mentoring models, please call Children’s Services’ Mentoring Hotline number – 212-341-0914!

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