National Mentoring Resource Center Blog

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Building Connections to Better Serve Youth in Foster Care

MAY 22, 2018

National Foster Care Awareness Month Blog Series (Part 1 of 5)

Mentoring is essentially about relationships. More than meeting program goals or benchmarks, the real benefit of mentoring comes from the relationship built between the youth and the mentor over time. It is this relationship that fosters positive youth development, skill-building, and personal growth that are the touchstones of the mentoring model. Benefits of having a mentor include improved academic outcomes, increased relationship skills, enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence, improved behavior and interpersonal skills, and a reduction in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. If the mentor-mentee relationship can have that much power, imagine how powerful it can be for someone who may not have typical family or community supports in their life.

Young people involved in the foster care system often are faced with limited opportunities to connect with supportive adults. This is in part due to the fact that many foster youth are subjected to multiple, short-term placements, and that they are often separated from immediate and extended family systems. Research indicates that experiences within the foster care system affect all kinds of relationships, including those with parents and caregivers, siblings, and others involved in their day-to-day lives.[1]

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The Promise and Potential of Mentors in Combating the Opioid Crisis

MAY 22, 2018

OpioidsThe last year has seen an increasingly bright spotlight shined on one of the nation’s most damaging and pernicious challenges: the struggle of many communities and individual citizens with opioid addiction. It seems that the nation is just now coming to grips with the depth and severity of the problem and the statistics on the subject are grim:

  • In 2016, 116 people in the United States died from overdoses of opioids1
  • One study2 found that opioid overdoses increased over 30% across 45 states between 2016 and 2017, with a 70% increase in the Midwest over that same timeframe, indicating that this problem is actually getting worse
  • Between 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them3, resulting in about 80% of heroin users first getting addicted via prescribed opioids4.
  • The estimated economic impact of this crisis is $78.5 billion a year5.
  • And unfortunately, this is an issue that directly impacts young people: One study6 found that 3.6% of youth ages 12-17 had misused opioids in the past year, with that number climbing to 7.3% of those 18-25.

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Research Alert: Evaluation of the Effects of a Mentoring Program for Youth in Foster Care on Their Criminal Justice Involvement as Young Adults

MAY 22, 2018

My Life ModelThe My Life model uses weekly structured individual and group mentoring activities for 16- to 18-year-old youth in foster care to improve their self-determination skills to help them meet their goals. Evidence of program effectiveness with males is important because males were more likely to report criminal justice involvement at follow-up, overall, compared to females in the study. The findings of this study suggest that a structured, weekly mentoring program specifically for foster care youth may reduce and prevent offending in early adulthood.

Learn more about this study here.





Incorporating Evidence-Based Cultural Frameworks into Mentoring

APRIL 13, 2018

Culturally Responsive MentoringDuring my work in the formal mentoring field and youth development, I have surprisingly seen little research incorporating culturally responsive frameworks for mentoring youth of color. Seemingly, much of the mentoring research continues to remain void of references that illustrate the unique and historical coping strategies symbolizing the strength and resilience of people of color, Black people in particular. Since the largest number of identified youth in MENTOR’s: Examining Youth Services Across America report reports over 75% of the children and youth served are youth of color and 30% are African-American, my observation is even more distressing. 

Whether working in small cities or culturally diverse suburbs, I also noticed programmatic approaches that were often “deficit based” and “culturally irrelevant” to the communities being served. Instead of identifying, incorporating, and celebrating the individualized coping skills and community-based adaptations developed by African American communities, many of these approaches were over-focused on prevention and intervention. As a result, I found refuge in reviewing and utilizing the practice-based curriculum about the African-centered rites of passage from experts, e.g. Paul Hill, Dr. Nsenga Warfield-Coppock and a dissertation by Dr. Keith Alford.

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Not Just Black Girl Magic: What it Takes to Inspire and Support All Our Girls

MARCH 30, 2018

Not Just Black Girl MagicA couple of years ago, when I first heard the term “Black Girl Magic,” I was like…yep, that’s me! I didn’t really know what the term meant, or its origins, but I was confident it included me. The more I learned about the concept, saw the t-shirts and memes on social media, I began to wonder, “What do all the other non-black girls think? Aren’t they magical, too?” The answer is simple: YES, they are magical as well, and I hope they know it.

For me, the journey began when I was just five or six years old, when I told my grandmother that I was going to be a secretary when I grew up. She looked at me and said, “Why wouldn’t you be the boss? And then you could have a secretary.” And so, it began.

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