Toolkit on Effective Mentoring for Youth
Facing Barriers to Success

Best practices and resources to build, strengthen, evaluate and sustain effective mentoring programs for youth considered at high-risk of under education, unemployment, homelessness, criminalization, and other negative outcomes.


“The point of having a mentor is just to have someone supporting you, to have someone at your back in a time when you’re down. A mentor is someone who is there to pick you up, to help you. They’re not there to manipulate you to say something that is bad for you. They’re just there pretty much to support you, help you become a better person, to help you reach that goal you’ve been trying to reach. A mentor for me is just a person who is willing to help without expecting anything back from you.” (Covenant House Youth Consultation)

What is mentoring?

A mentor is “an experienced and trusted advisor”.1 Mentoring is typically when an older and/or more experienced individual acts as a role model for a younger, less experienced person.

What prompted this Toolkit?

This toolkit was developed by the Ontario Mentoring Coalition with funds provided by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services of the Province of Ontario. The goal of the toolkit is to provide information and guidance to organizations implementing new mentoring programs for youth who face multiple barriers to success. Mentoring for youth who face multiple barriers to success may require different approaches and strategies to be successful. This toolkit will assist practitioners and organizations to build and strengthen mentoring for diverse youth populations who experience a relatively high level of vulnerability and marginalization.

The contents of the toolkit were modified from the affiliated literature review. The information for the literature review was collected by scanning, reviewing and synthesizing both academic and non-academic literature.

What do we mean by “youth facing barriers”?

In general terms, we are referring to youth who are living in harms way; youth who, because of their self-identity, life circumstances and/or life experiences, experience vulnerability and marginalization. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) considers youth facing multiple barriers to success as youth who experience obstacles to full participation in their communities and may benefit from targeted support and opportunities. Based on the definition provided by MCYS2, and consultation with the Advisory Committee for this project, the following groups were identified as priorities:

  • Youth with academic challenges
  • Indigenous youthhands with words
  • Racialized youth
  • Newcomer youth
  • Youth with developmental and other disabilities
  • Youth with mental health needs
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, Two Spirit, and asexual youth
  • Youth in or leaving care
  • Homeless youth
  • Youth involved with the criminal justice system
  • Girls

“Some groups of youth have unique circumstances, challenges and needs. These youth may need more targeted supports and opportunities to ensure they are able to succeed” (MCYS, p. 12).2

These are somewhat superficial separations – one youth may identify with more than one of these groups. Nonetheless, they allow us to present the material in an organized way. We invite you to explore the information on mentoring youth that is most applicable to you.

1 Mentor [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from

2 Ministry of Children and Youth Services (2013). Stepping up: A strategic framework to help Ontario’s youth succeed. Province of Ontario, Retrieved from

Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services