Nearly a year ago I posted a summary of a report by Gary Walker, of Public/Private Ventures, which showed how mentoring in the US has grown over the past 15 years. Now, we have a report, titled YOUTH MENTORING. A good thing? (PDF) from the Centre for Policy Studies in the UK, which also challenges current mentoring practices.
Among the recommendations from the UK report are:
"Good mentoring can work for some specific groups of troubled young people. There is, however, no evidence that it works for all young people."
"The Government, the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (the strategic body which supervises mentoring in the UK), and individual mentoring organizations should all therefore stop encouraging the delusion that mentoring is some kind of panacea for disaffected youth."
The report concludes with the statment that "There are numerous reasons why some young people are more likely to have problems than others. Poverty, unemployment, poor housing and education and many other concerns can all play a part. But a common factor is that, all to often, there is a void in their lives caused by the absense, or the low quality, of parenting. To some degree, and in some cases, mentoring may be able to help.
This void cannot simply be filled, however, by poorly trained volunteers, who in turn are managed by inadequately trained supervisors."
I think people who lead and fund mentoring programs in the US should read this report carefully. What disappointed me was that the conclusions did not provide roadmaps for how to make mentoring programs more effective, or how they might reach more of the youth they have the highest potential to help.
I host my own ideas in the Tutor/Mentor Institute and one article I've posted is called Tipping Points. These are actions that I feel would improve the leadership within tutor/mentor programs, and help them be more available as a prevention strategy in neighborhoods where high poverty is the primary reason kids need the extra support that mentoring/tutoring programs can offer.
If you read the essays I've created, or my blog articles, you'll see that I focus on the following
a) place based tutor/mentor programs located in high poverty urban neighborhoods, where the organization provides long-term continuity and stability for youth, and where there are additional learning and mentoring activities, in addition to the primary relationship with a one-on-one adult mentor
b) recruitment and traihning of mentoring leaders, the key staff in a place based program, who build trust and participation of mentors and volunteers, and who coach and mentor both the youth and the volunteers
c) funding strategies that would make flexible operating dollars more consistently available in places with good leadership and good strategies, so that talented people will stay in place for multiple years, even making this a career choice
d) connections between leaders, volunteers, donors and youth in different programs; the mentoring of leaders, supporting each other with social/emotional support, ideas, collaboration, etc, can be significant in helping people stay in mentoring careers longer, but building more experience and skills to be mentoring leaders and effective volunteers
f) mentoring of mentors, providing support in the workplace, and via the internet, to help volunteers from one program, or multiple programs, connect and learn from each other, so more stay involved, and many become leaders who help build the capacity of their program, and support the career growth of the students.
I can't find many forums in the US, or the UK, where these ideas are the subject of deliberation, and of action planning, so if you know of such place, please invite me into your discussions and share your ideas in this web site.