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.

How This Toolkit Was Developed

This toolkit was developed by the Ontario Mentoring Coalition, with funding from the Ministry of Children & Youth Services of the Province of Ontario. The content was prepared by Lead Consultant Melanie Bania, PhD and Associate, Vanessa Chase. The project was enhanced by the guidance of an Advisory Committee of service providers, and input from youth in Ontario facing barriers to success.

The Ontario Mentoring Coalition also collaborated with the Alberta Mentoring Partnership to incorporate additional strategies, practices and resources for mentoring children and youth in care into this toolkit based on information collected and learned through the Children and Youth in Care and Mentoring Project. For more information, please visit:

Advisory Committee

The Ontario Mentoring Coalition Co-Chairs provided leadership for this project:

An Advisory Committee composed of 7 members provided further guidance for this project:

Youth Input

“Let’s say I’m high risk, you’re not supposed to use [that term], and I did some stupid stuff, but I learned at the end of the day people could change. I think that’s one of points of having a mentor. Mentorship can make a difference in your life.” (Covenant House Youth Consultation)

Is it important to include the voice of youth in initiatives that are meant to benefit them. This project engaged established youth groups to provide feedback on the resources being developed. Groups of youth were guided through a list of questions on their views of mentoring, and their past experiences. Their views and ideas were then used to enhance the contents of the toolkit.

Youth were engaged in this process in partnership with the following groups / organizations:

  • Covenant House, Toronto, ON (10 youth)
  • YWCA, Scarborough, ON (7 youth)
  • Youth Arts Action Group, Lawrence Heights/ Neptune/ Lotherton, Toronto, ON (11 youth)

YouthA total of 28 youth were engaged in this process and provided an honorarium for their time and contributions. These youth were from a variety of backgrounds and represented a wide range of life experiences, including many of the characteristics considered in this toolkit.

We have also included thoughts and feedback in the toolkit from youth who participated in other youth advisory exercises facilitated by external agencies. These groups include the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada Youth in Care: Youth Focus Groups and the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth: Report from the Youth Leaving Care Hearings.

Other Considerations

How we decided on the language to use

We took our lead from youth themselves. Many terms are used to refer to youth who face barriers to success (ex: at-risk youth, high-risk youth, vulnerable youth, marginalized youth, youth with potential, etc.). It is difficult to find one term that resonates positively with everyone and that everyone can agree with. Above all else, we do not want to further stigmatize and marginalize youth. Therefore, we chose to refer to ‘youth who face barriers to success’, which highlights both their experiences and their relationship with the outside world.

How we decided on the resources to include

The information on mentoring is plentiful. A simple internet search can bring up hundreds of thousands of hits. Luckily, there are organizations, partnerships, coalitions, and respected researchers that produce well-developed, well-documented rigorous material on effective mentoring. We sought the most recent, most relevant, and user-friendly resources and tools to share in this toolkit. Many resources may exist on any given topic; in those cases, we chose to include the ones we felt were most readily available, user-friendly and practical for use by service providers.

Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services