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.

Involving Parents / Caregivers / Family


When appropriate, train parents (or legal guardians or an important adult in the youth’s life) in the basic knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to support an effective and safe mentoring relationship.1


  • Establish a congenial and collaborative working relationship with the mentee’s parents or guardians, or other significant adult in their lives.1

Other Findings

Mentoring relationships are more likely to succeed if programs reach out to parents/guardians as the match progresses, soliciting their feedback and addressing their concerns. Getting ‘buy-in’ from parents can provide mentoring relationships with the stability and support they need to flourish.2, 3

Be explicit with mentors about the nature of the relationship that is expected between mentors and family members, so that expectations are clear to everyone.

Using culturally appropriate language and tools, provide training for the parent(s) or guardian(s) (when appropriate) on the following topics:

  1. Purpose of mentoring
  2. Program requirements (e.g., match length, match frequency, duration of visits, protocols for missing or being late to meetings, match termination)
  3. Parents’ and mentees’ goals for mentoring
  4. Mentors’ obligations and appropriate roles
  5. Mentees’ obligations and appropriate roles
  6. Ethics and safety in mentoring relationships
  7. Initiating the mentoring relationship
  8. Developing an effective, working relationship with your child’s mentor
  9. Effective closure of the mentoring relationship

Provide training for the parent(s) or guardian(s) on the following risk management policies that are matched to the program model, setting, and population served:

  1. Appropriate physical contact
  2. Contact with mentoring program (e.g., who to contact, when to contact)
  3. Relationship monitoring requirements (e.g., response time, frequency, schedule)
  4. Approved activities
  5. Mandatory reporting requirements associated with suspected child abuse or neglect, and suicidality and homicidality
  6. Confidentiality and anonymity
  7. Digital and social media use
  8. Overnight visits and out of town travel
  9. Money spent on mentee and mentoring activities
  10. Transportation
  11. Emergency and crisis situation procedures
  12. Health and medical care
  13. Discipline
  14. Substance use
  15. Firearms and weapons
  16. Inclusion of others in match meetings (e.g., siblings, mentee’s friends)
  17. Photo and image use
  18. Evaluation and use of data
  19. Grievance procedures
  20. Other program relevant topics

Parents are more likely to engage when they develop an interest in playing an influential role, have a sense of efficacy for helping their children, and see positive opportunities and invitations to get involved.

Programs should reach out to parents/guardians by:

  • Conducting orientation sessions
  • Following up after orientation sessions and providing print materials
  • Providing a program handbook
  • Giving parents a prominent role in finalizing the match
  • Checking in frequently
  • Communicating in a variety of ways (i.e. newsletter, phone call, email)
  • Providing access to other support services in the community (i.e. recreation, adult education, support groups)
  • Hosting group outings and family events
  • Providing recognition to parents
  • Enlisting parents as volunteers (in marketing, recruitment, evaluation or resource development)1, 4

Practical suggestions on how to involve parents or guardians:

  • Meet with parents in person
  • Host an open house
  • Invite parents to take part in or observe the program
  • Organize family nights and provide food and childcare for other siblings; invite other important community members to these events5, 6

Make parental involvement an explicit part of your program planning, ensuring someone is responsible for this aspect of the program and funds are available to support these activities.5, 6

Note of caution: some research suggests that it is preferable not to engage parents in the mentoring process too much to minimize the risk of them intentionally or unintentionally disrupting the mentor-mentee relationship through the blurring of boundaries or other potential parent-child tensions.5, 6, 7

A recent Canadian report highlights some recommendations for successful parental engagement within programs for youth living in contexts of disadvantage and marginalization.

Key Tools & Resources

Mentoring Fact Sheet: Involving Parents in Mentoring Programs:

Guide to Mentoring for Parents and Guardians:

Supporting YouthBuild Students in Mentoring Relationships. Customizable Mentoring Handbook for Parents/ Guardians/ Caregivers:

Involving Parents in Mentoring Programs:

Parent Check-In Questions:

Refer to Making the Grade for a sample Parent/Guardian contract

(Cannata, Garringer, MacRae, & Wakeland, 2005, A-4)



  1. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from
  2. DuBois, D. L., Holloway, B. E., Valentine, J. C., & Cooper, H. (2002). Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 157-197.
  3. U.S. Department of Education Mentoring Resource Center (2007). Mentoring fact sheet: Avoiding early match termination. Retrieved from
  4. The Indiana Youth Institute (2013). Youth Mentoring: Best Practices, Quality Standards and Evidence-Based Model Programs. Indianapolis: The Indiana Youth Institute. Retrieved from
  5. Vandenberghe, C. (2013). Mentoring: A review of the literature. Calgary, AB: Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research for Alberta’s Promise. Retrieved from
  6. DuBois, D.L., & Karcher, M.J. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of youth mentoring (2nd Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  7. Taylor, A. (2014). Family involvement. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring (pp. 457-468). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services