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When Mark was six years old, social services removed him from the custody of his birth mother. She was an alcohol and substance abuser who regularly hit him. He had also been sexually molested by one of her boyfriends. Over the next three years, he was placed in several foster homes and eventually ended up in a foster care group home. When Mark was fifteen the group home started a mentor program, and he was matched with Daniel. Over the course of weekly in-person interaction and regular phone calls, Daniel’s involvement strongly and positively affected Mark.
"Daniel saved my life,” Mark says. “I hated myself and most people around me. Slowly Daniel began to show me that I was worthy of the many pleasures in life and even though things started off bad, it was within my power to make changes and to succeed."
As a direct result of Daniel’s involvement in his life, Mark graduated from high school and received a college degree in business administration.
In a Casey Family Programs report, 65% of foster youth experience seven or more school changes (each setting them behind developmentally for up to one year), only 74% completed high school, and while 70% of emancipating youth expressed an intention to attend college, only 37% did with less than 11% completing a Bachelor’s degree.
Per a Pew Public/Private Ventures Study of 959 boys and girls where 60% of the members were of a minority group, 60% boys and 80% from low income households, matching 487 of the participants with mentors yielded powerful results. The mentored youth were:
The power of mentoring to transform children’s lives is not exclusive to children in foster care. It is also an incredible deterrent to teen parenting, gang participation and dropping out of high school.
Shawna lived in a single parent home with four siblings. When she was a junior in high school, her future looked bleak. She was failing in several classes, and felt destined to follow in the footsteps of her siblings by dropping out and joining a gang. In an attempt to salvage some of her hopes and dreams, she volunteered for the mentor program. Shawna and her mentor Liya became friends quickly and decided to focus their energy at improving Shawna’s grades. After a couple of months Shawna’s grades were not improving, so Liya visited Shawna's home to find that she lacked a quiet and personal place to study and do her homework. Liya invited Shawna to come to her office after school where she could study and get the occasional helping hand. Over the next months, Shawna's grades improved dramatically. Liya’s colleagues liked having Shawna around so much that they offered her a part-time job. With Liya’s support, Shawna graduated, went to college, graduate school and moved to New York City where she started her own youth services organization.
Research and surveys indicate that most young people, regardless of their attitude, want positive interaction with adults in their lives, and when they have it, they are more likely to stay in school, attend classes, be less disruptive when attending class, get better grades and go to college. Rather than becoming a financial, emotional and political drain on their community, at-risk youth with mentors, become productive, contributing members of it.
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Mentoring youth struggling in the foster care system.
Words of Wisdom
~ Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. ~