Every child needs someone in their lives that they can look up to, someone they can count on to back them up in difficult times, someone who can offer that pat on the back for a job well done, or the encouragement to reach for that difficult goal.
But not every child gets the opportunity to experience this type of support, and are, oft times, the ones who don't receive it. The Emery Local Interagency Council recently applied for and received a grant for youth (ages 16-21) who have been or are in foster care to offer voluntary mentors to these youth. This opportunity came following a Foster Youth Summit conducted in June 2003 and an Adult Leadership Summit in September 2003, a Transition to Adult Living (TAL) Implementation. Tams was organized to clarify needs and concerns, as well as establish an action plan to better assist youth leaving foster care in the State of Utah and transition to adult living.
The Fostering Success Program seeks to match youth, who have left foster care or are in foster care, with a caring and supportive adult. Research has indicated that involvement with a mentor can significantly increase successful outcomes and can contribute to a successful transition to adulthood. In a study of youth who left foster care in Utah, over a five year period, the following information was gathered:
*35 percent of former foster children become involved in criminal activity.
*58 percent are receiving public assistance of some type.
*Females who have left foster care in the last five years have a birth rate of 2.79 times the rate for females in the general populations.
*The suicide rate for former foster youth is 17 times higher than the rate for the general population.
The Fostering Success Program involves two important roles. The youth who are or have been in foster care, and a volunteer mentor. The volunteer role is the reason this article was written. This program needs qualified adults to establish a supportive and caring relationship with these youth. The qualifications of a mentor are a desire to build a relationship with another person to help them achieve personal, educational, or career goals, ability to communicate with youth openly and without judgement, strong listening skills, practical problem solving skills, the ability to suggest options and alternatives, sensitivity to persons of different educational, economic, cultural, or racial backgrounds, and a strong understanding of personal confidentiality.
Mentors are asked to dedicate at least four hours per month to the mentoring relationship and to commit to participate for at least one year.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, or if you have any questions regarding this program, please contact Cori Shelton at Four Corners at 435-381-2432 or Gareldine Wright at the Local Interagency Council at 435-381-2827.