Over the last few weeks MANY has looked at the ways mentoring can positively impact the lives of youth who have been involved in the foster care system. From content to training to supervision and support, the unifying theme that underlies everything we have found is the importance of creating connections for youth who otherwise might be highly disconnected due to their situations. Mentoring is a wonderful way to provide a supportive, caring adult in the lives of youth in foster care, but it is often a temporary relationship delineated by program start and end. What these youth really need are long-term, permanent connections.
Over the last month I’ve been exploring the ways that mentoring professionals can help build effective programs for youth who have been impacted by the foster care system. From focusing on creating long-term connections and support systems, to helping build relational competencies and developing social capital, mentoring programs can play an important role in helping to prepare these young people for transition into the adult world.
Rural communities have their own unique set of strengths and challenges, especially when working with young people. Close-knit neighborhoods, strong family support systems, and a strong community ethic combine with scarcity of resources, lack of opportunities, and vast geographical service areas to form social systems that require a tailored approach to service delivery. This is especially true when volunteerism is critical – as with mentoring. MANY has prioritized working in rural communities.
Small towns and rural communities have many inherent strengths that youth-serving organizations can draw upon. One is that people often have deep, strong roots there, and are invested in the community in a way that many people don’t feel in urban or suburban communities. “One of the greatest assets in rural communities is that often, generations have lived here, and people share multiple circles that they run in.
Messaging and marketing are key for any mentoring program, but perhaps even more so for rural programs. From recruiting mentors to raising funds to support the agency, messaging and marketing are the activities that keep you in the public eye.
MANY gathers insight from the field around the needs of rural programs, and works with our membership to identify and develop resources specific to the issues rural communities face. It’s our goal, as always, to advance the evidence base for best practices in mentoring, and we look forward to working with rural programs throughout the country to expand resources in this area.
We all talk about collaboration and how it can help improve services, but sometimes it’s just lip service. In rural communities, however, pooling resources with other agencies can be the difference between success and failure. How do you work with other agencies, businesses or organizations in your communities to fulfill your mission?
Training Mentors to Work with Youth in the Foster Care System National Foster Care Awareness Month Blog Series (Part 3 of 5) Click For Previous Blogs In Series Everyone knows that a good mentor training is key to providing quality services in a mentoring program. The Elements of Effective Mentoring Practice (EEMP) include metrics for mentor training, and countless hours of training and technical assistance have been devoted to helping programs create or improve their training curricula. The EEMP recommends at least two hours of pre-match training for all mentors, with an optional enhancement of adding up to six hours [Read further...]
Intensive Services & Mentoring Support Positive Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care National Foster Care Awareness Month Blog Series (Part 2 of 5) Click For Previous Blogs In Series Last week, I talked about building connections for youth in foster care through mentoring. Some recent studies have pointed toward best practices when working with foster youth, including facilitating supportive relationships with mentors, program staff, and caring family members. One of the ways to do this organically is to enlist supportive adults who are already a part of the young person’s life; another is to “scaffold” supportive relationships through formal mentoring [Read further...]
Spacious skies, waves of grain, majestic mountains. Much of the narrative that shapes our views of the United States is built on images of rural America. It is where we began, and idyllic notions of small-town life still resonate. As compelling as these images can be, the reality is that rural communities face challenges that may be difficult for those living in urban settings to understand. In spite of these realities, rural communities draw from their many strengths, and benefit from strong community connections and family networks. While only about 20% of the US population lives in rural areas, these [Read further...]