Why We Need to Celebrate Mentorship
In child welfare systems, protecting children means more than just caring for their physical safety. Research on children’s lived experiences with child protective services shows that valuing children’s emotional safety and sense of belongingness is as important as providing them food and shelter. Guided by this holistic approach to children’s health and well-being, mentorship can be an avenue for offering support and guidance to children and young adults whose lives have touched the welfare system. In light of the upcoming National Mentoring Month in January, we look at how mentorship changes young people’s lives and how we can celebrate this greatness through mentoring programs.
Why mentoring matters
Mentoring is a relationship built on trust and connection with shared opportunities for learning and growth. Fostering a healthy and supportive mentoring relationship takes time, but mentorship has several potential benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. While mentoring can be a profound experience for any individual, mentoring can be especially beneficial for children and youth in care as it expands their support system during an emotionally challenging journey. The sense of security and guidance from mentorship enhances young people's confidence, self-esteem, social relationships, and learning outcomes. Meanwhile, mentorship instills a sense of accomplishment for mentors while improving their patience and supervisory skills. Mentorship can also serve as a gateway to advocacy work. While advocates may look into volunteering for nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the difference between NGOs and nonprofits lies in scale and resources. Nonprofits tend to be smaller as they focus on the local community, making them a viable space for anyone starting their advocacy work. By volunteering as a mentor for children and youth in welfare systems, you will devote your efforts to the community and the larger advocacies related to children’s rights, youth development, and social justice.
What mentoring looks like
Your time and talent as a volunteer serve as valuable resources for mentoring programs to move forward and create positive change in the lives of youth affiliated with the welfare system. At Partnerships for Children, we have two mentoring programs dedicated to children above five years of age and teens transitioning to adulthood. With the belief that the power of music can be harnessed for communication and learning, the first program, Kids in a New Groove (KING) Mentoring, seeks mentors who can provide weekly one-on-one music lessons to children. Learning and making music together can be a way for mentors and their students to bond and have fun while also fueling the children’s creativity and self-expression. Meanwhile, young people need to learn about financial stability and develop independence to continue to thrive even after they age out of foster care. The Youth Empowerment and Success (YES) Mentoring program aims to provide support and safety nets to teens transitioning from youth to adulthood. We match the youth with adults who can guide them through financial literacy and basic life skills, such as getting a job and managing a personal budget.
How we can celebrate mentorship
While National Mentoring Month is full of exciting activities that raise and amplify awareness about mentoring, the best way to celebrate mentorship in the long term is to become a mentor yourself! Our organization had 23 new matches with YES mentors and 25 new matches with KING mentors in the past year, but there are still children waiting for a mentor who can listen to and believe in them. You need not be a musical genius or financially wealthy to become a mentor; you just need to be supportive, engaging, and a great teacher and listener. We support all volunteers with in-depth training, check-ins, and a community of fellow mentors. If you decide that mentoring is not for you but still want to celebrate and contribute to mentorship, you can also opt for sponsoring Partnership for Children’s mentoring programs. At the heart of these mentorship programs is the recognition that a mentoring relationship does not end after a child reaches a certain age. Mentoring is a lifelong connection, with the youth learning how to be self-sufficient but still not alone—as they have supportive mentors to guide, follow, and stay with them throughout their journey.
Article written by Rosie James