While mentoring is an age-old concept that has transformed lives throughout history, current events often cause us to rethink strategies and possibilities for this powerful intervention. As new issues arise, CMP will address the implications of these for mentoring, and the ways in which we as youth advocates must respond.
Mentoring as an Essential Service in the Age of COVID
In April 2020, CMP began gathering together mentoring professionals throughout California in monthly roundtable sessions to identify the challenges and impacts of COVID-19 on mentees, their families, and the communities we serve. Feedback from 64 participants from across the state indicated that lack of access to basic needs is one of the key areas negatively affecting mentees and their families. These include the lack of:
- Access to food, housing expenses, and rental protection.
- Access to mental health services to address the isolation and fear experienced by both youth and their parents/caregivers.
- Access to internet and technology to allow low-resource mentees to stay connected to their mentors, schools, and peers.
Current research shows that mentoring can be an effective strategy to address the above basic physical and emotional needs.
- Mentoring can serve as a conduit for youth and families to access basic needs. Families are often more comfortable sharing their needs with a mentor or mentoring staff than they might be with social workers, who are often seen as “part of the system.” During the COVID crisis, mentoring programs can reach out to youth and families that are in need of basic support to relieve the economic and mental health impact endured throughout our state.
- Mentoring supports social-emotional development, positively impacting mental health. Research has shown that youth who participated in mentoring for two years report higher emotional, social, and psychological well-being than those that received no or one year of mentoring supports. Youth are possibly the most vulnerable during a pandemic, and with the uncertainty of the future, mental health needs have expanded exponentially. Youth who have a trusted adult who can provide support and guidance during a difficult time will be better able to process the new, unplanned challenges they are now dealing with and link them to needed resources.
- Mentoring programs can support and provide necessary technology to keep youth connected. Mentoring programs are going virtual! Staff can track and monitor one-on-one engagement, as well as provide group sessions that keep youth connected with both their peers, and with caring adult mentors.
What is needed to support mentoring programs as an essential service?
- Provide funding and in-kind support for:
- mentoring programs in your community to expand existing outreach and program engagement, which will help bridge the COVID-19 resource and isolation gap that currently exists.
- Technology purchases that will support virtual mentoring programs locally and across California.
- Partner with CMP to advocate for mentoring as an essential service across the state by using your sphere of influence and local connections.
- Partner with CMP to provide training to local mentoring programs to assess and expand virtual mentoring services.
- Donate your time and become a mentor!
Racial Justice in Mentoring
The California Mentoring Partnership stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all communities of color, against all forms of systemic racism and violence. We call on our field to join us in embracing an actively and explicitly anti-racist approach to mentoring and systems transformation.
Following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Auhmed Arbery, and the civil unrest that accompanied them, CMP turned significant attention in our statewide roundtables to how mentoring can be a strategy for racial justice and support of youth and families of color. We have convened a workgroup on this critical issue, engaging a multicultural team of mentoring leaders throughout the state, to determine what the needs are, what resources exist already, and what new strategies and resources need to be developed.
The workgroup defines an anti-racist approach to mentoring as one that recognizes the inherent racism in all American systems and structures: public education systems, health and human services, criminal justice systems, the mentoring field itself, and in all informal relationships, families, and communities as well as the dominant culture at large. Our approach seeks to root out racism in all its forms, and we believe this requires a deep transformation of all such systems and structures, far beyond surface reforms. These change efforts must be led by the youth and families most affected by them, and the CMP Racial Justice in Mentoring workgroup is committed to making the mentoring community in California a safe and supportive space in which which this work can be undertaken.
The workgroup has developed the following blueprint-in-progress for our statewide approach to addressing racial justice in and through mentoring in California:
- Organize and sustain an ongoing advocacy body, in partnership with minority-led and social justice-oriented organizations throughout California, to promote racial justice and other anti-oppression goals in and through mentoring.
- Deepen our field’s competence in anti-racist approaches to programming and mentor-mentee interactions
- Make existing training and programming within programs or regions that address racism more widely available, and develop and deliver new resources that will enable mentors, mentoring programs, and youth and families themselves to counter racism and other forms of oppression.
- Transform our mentoring organizations in CA to reflect anti-racist practices that identify and root out systemic racism in the mentoring field, divest the mentoring network from oppression and violence in related fields of service, and better position mentors, mentoring organizations, and networks in CA to be true allies in the fight against racism.
- Create opportunities for youth and parents to engage in social justice efforts with the support of mentors, mentor programs, and our statewide movement.
- Advocate for mentoring as a justice-system diversion approach, and encourage reallocation of policing and prison funding to mentoring programs and other critical services