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.

Recruiting & Selecting Mentees

“You have to want to change before you can change […] you have to want to be helped before you can accept someone’s help.” (Youth Arts Action Group Youth Consultation)


Recruit appropriate mentees by realistically describing the program’s aims and expected outcomes.1


  • Use recruitment strategies that realistically portray the benefits, practices, supports, and challenges of being mentored in the program.
  • Recruit mentees whose needs best match the services offered by the program.
  • Establish criteria for accepting youth into the program, or disqualifying them.
  • Get potential mentees to complete an application (written or verbal).
  • Get parent(s)/guardian(s) to complete an application form and to provide informed permission for their child to participate (where necessary).
  • Ensure mentees (and parent(s)/guardian(s) where applicable) agree in writing to the minimum time commitment that is required by the mentoring program.
  • Ensure mentees (and parent(s)/guardian(s) where applicable) agree in writing that mentees participate in face-to-face meetings with their mentors at a minimum frequency and amount of hours that are required by the mentoring program.1

Other Findings

A meta-analysis suggests that mentoring programs may be less effective if they serve youth who experience a high level of both individual risk factors (problem behaviours, academic struggle), and environmental risk factors (e.g., low family socioeconomic status, low parental support). This has important implications for selecting mentees that could most benefit from a mentoring relationship.2 Youth must be motivated to participate and must be a good fit for a mentoring relationship at the time of recruitment.

Self-selection by young people is likely to produce better outcomes than young people being invited to participate or being referred by other organizations. Most importantly, the selection process should be seen as a positive opportunity, not as punishment, stigmatizing or labeling.3, 4



  1. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from
  2. 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.
  3. Blaber, D., & Glazebrook, D. (2006). A guide to effective practice for mentoring young people. Melbourne: State of Victoria. Available at:
  4. The Indiana Youth Institute (2013). Youth Mentoring: Best Practices, Quality Standards and Evidence-Based Model Programs. Indianapolis: The Indiana Youth Institute. Retrieved from
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services