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.

Assessing Mentees

“Personally, I would say, that my mentor should know that I’ve experienced suffering and pain in my life and it doesn’t help to look down upon that person […] I’m a human being, I’ve experienced this, I can pick myself up.” (Covenant House Youth Consultation)


Assess each young person to determine eligibility, level of support needed, and to help with matching (i.e., interests, risks, strengths and needs).1


  • Use an intake interview as an opportunity to:
    • Assess a young person’s attitude and interest in the program
    • Assess the young person’s strengths, challenges and needs
    • Gather information to help you make an appropriate match
    • Outline the program expectations and policies/procedures 

Other Findings

The initial intake and assessment phase of a mentoring program can often be the first point of meaningful contact with a young person. To build trust, this first contact should represent and be consistent with your overall philosophy of care. It is recommended that a youth-friendly dialogue format be utilized where youth can share their interests, needs, strengths, and expectations (e.g., see the B.C. Guide and Tool below, or the Strengths Assessment Inventory).

Assess the young person’s existing social network to see how the mentor can support and supplement existing positive guidance rather than compete with it, and combat negative influences. This includes identifying:

  • Positive relationships the mentor can encourage and enhance;
  • Existing instrumental support the mentor does not need to duplicate (i.e., skill development programs);
  • Siblings that may also need a mentor; and
  • Peers who are exhibiting negative behaviours.2

Key Tools & Resources

The Risk Screening Tool (Herrera, DuBois, & Grossman, 2013, pp. 111-112):

Youth Level of Service / Case Management Inventory 2.0 (YLS/CMITM 2.0) (Hoge & Andrews):
note: pay per use

Search Institute Youth Surveys (Attitudes/Behaviours, Developmental Assets):

The Child & Adolescent Needs & Strengths (CANS):

B.C. Guide: Gender-Sensitive Needs Assessment Tool for Youth:

Artz, S., Nicholson, D., Halsall, E., & Larke, S. (2001). BC guide for needs assessment for youth. Victoria, BC: School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria.

Strengths Assessment Inventory (Youth version & Observer version):



  1. Herrera, C., DuBois, D. L., & Grossman, J. B. (2013). The role of risk: Mentoring experiences and outcomes for youth with varying risk profiles. New York, NY: Public/ Private Ventures project distributed by MDRC.
  2. Keller, T., & Blakeslee, J. (2013). Social network and mentoring. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring (pp. 129-143). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services