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.

Supporting, Supervising & Maintaining The Match

“Confidentiality is key, make it as informal as possible” (Covenant House Youth Consultation)

StandardMentor-Mentee Match

Monitor mentoring relationship milestones and youth safety. Support matches by providing ongoing advice, problem solving, training, and access to resources for the duration of each relationship.1


  • Contact mentees and mentors at least twice per month for the first month of the match and once a month thereafter. Contacts may need to occur more frequently should challenges arise.
  • At each monitoring contact, program staff should ask about mentoring activities, mentee outcomes, child safety issues, the quality of the mentoring relationship, and the impact of mentoring on the mentor and mentee using a standardized procedure.
  • Monitoring of the relationship should especially focus on the development of a strong bond between mentor and mentee, as youth who perceive more trusting, mutual, and empathic relations with their mentors experience greater improvements than youth who perceive lower levels of these relationship qualities. Group mentoring programs must consider gathering additional information during the monitoring contacts such as any concerns about the group dynamics or challenges common to the group.
  • Contact an important and responsible adult in each mentee’s life (e.g., parent, guardian or important person in the mentee’s life) at least twice per month for the first month of the match and once a month thereafter. Ask about mentoring activities, mentee outcomes, child safety issues, the quality of the mentoring relationship, and the impact of mentoring on the mentee using a standardized procedure.
  • Document information about each mentor-mentee meeting including at a minimum, the date, length, and description of activity completed.
  • Regularly assess all matches to determine if they should be closed or encouraged to continue.
  • Provide mentors with access to relevant resources (e.g., expert advice from program staff or others, publications, Web-based resources, experienced mentors) to help them address challenges in their mentoring relationships as they arise.
  • Provide mentees and parents or guardians with access or referrals to relevant resources (e.g., expert advice from program staff or others, publications, Web-based resources, available social service referrals) to help families address needs and challenges as they arise.
  • Provide one or more opportunities per year for post-match mentor training.
  • Provide mentors with feedback on a regular basis regarding their mentees’ outcomes and the impact of mentoring on their mentee, to continuously improve mentee outcomes and encourage mentor retention.1

They have to be trustworthy, because if you don’t trust them you’re obviously not going to feel 100% safe with them.” (Youth Arts Action Group Youth Consultation)

Other Findings

Mentoring relationships that end prematurely may lead to particularly negative consequences for mentees, including declines of self-worth or self-confidence. It is most often mentors who initiate the end of a match. One of the leading reasons for premature termination of matches by mentors is unmet expectations. Creating a space to manage mentor expectations is key to mentor retention.2, 3, 4 Specific reasons provided for the end of the match by mentors are:

  • that they felt their mentees were not interested enough;
  • they had the impression that their mentees did not seem to need or benefit from a mentor;
  • the program’s lack of youth focus (i.e. too much structure or red tape);
  • an inability to bridge cultural differences ; and
  • family interference in the match.4, 5, 6

Providing mentors with feedback about their mentee and the mentoring relationship gives program staff the opportunity to ensure that mentors have realistic and positive expectations reducing the likelihood of premature match termination. Feedback to mentors could also impact their feelings of self-efficacy as a mentor. When mentors experience greater self-efficacy about the mentoring relationship they are more satisfied, meet more frequently with their mentees, report fewer challenges in their mentoring relationships, perceive more benefits for mentees, and have higher quality mentoring relationships.

Making sure that mentors are prepared to deal with distressing situations and have strategies for coping with challenging and upsetting situations may help improve mentor satisfaction and retention, and keep everyone safe. Mentors and mentees should be provided with the program coordinator’s contact information and office hours, a 24-hour support number to call should issues arise, and crisis hotline numbers.12 Mentors should understand that they need to contact staff when they need something. Program staff must wrap supports and resources around a match to support and ensure that matches are long term.11

Host one or more group activities for matches and/or offer information about activities that matches might wish to participate in together. Garnering community support (i.e. free tickets to activities) allows matches to explore new avenues of interest and learning, and feel included in the community.7

Host one or more group activities for matches and mentees’ families.

Thank mentors for their contributions and thank the family of the mentee for supporting the mentee’s engagement in mentoring prior to match closure (see p. 65).

Staff turnover can negatively affect the sustainability of matches, so ensure staff consistency where possible.1, 6, 8, 9, 10

Key Tools & Resources

Types of Supervision:

Mentoring Fact Sheet: Managing Risk After the Match is Made:

Mentoring Fact Sheet: Avoiding Early Match Termination:

Fact Sheet: Comprehensive Approaches to Mentor Retention:

Match Monitoring: Questions to Guide Mentoring Professionals:

Supporting Mentors:

Creating and Sustaining a Winning Match:

Going the Distance:

Keeping Matches in Touch Over the Summer Months: Matches in Touch.pdf

Overcoming Relationship Pitfalls:

Mentor’s Monthly Report:

Online Mentoring Activity Log:

Quality Relationship Rubric: Best Practice Resource – Match Support:

Sample Ongoing Monitoring Questions:

Sample Child Safety Checklist:

Supervision Guidelines & Questions:

  1. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from
  2. Evans, T. (2005). How does mentoring a disadvantaged young person impact on the mentor?   International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 3, 17-29.
  3. Spencer, R. (2007). “It’s not what I expected”: A qualitative study of youth mentoring relationship failures. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22(4), 331-354.
  4. U.S. Department of Education Mentoring Resource Center (2007). Mentoring fact sheet: Avoiding early match termination. Retrieved from
  5. 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.
  6. Vandenberghe, C. (2013). Mentoring: A review of the literature. Calgary, AB: Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research for Alberta’s Promise. Retrieved from
  7. Ballasy, L., Fullop, M. & Garringer, M. (2008). Generic mentoring program policy & procedure manual. Portland, OR: The Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence & The National Mentoring Center at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Available at:
  8. Keller, A. (2007). Youth mentoring: Theoretical and methodological issues. In T. Allen & L. Eby (Eds.), The Blackwell Handbook of Mentoring: A Multiple Perspectives Approach (pp. 23-47). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  9. The Indiana Youth Institute (2013). Youth Mentoring: Best Practices, Quality Standards and Evidence-Based Model Programs. Indianapolis: The Indiana Youth Institute. Retrieved from
  10. Bania, M. (2014). Striving for sustainability: Six key strategies to guide your efforts. Ottawa, ON: YOUCAN.
  11. Swettberg, C. (2013). Mentoring youth in the foster care system: From research to practice. [Presentation]. Retrieved from
  12. Wilson, J. (2010). Kinnections Mentoring Program for Youth: Program Policy And Procedures Template For Engaging Youth In Mentorship. Vancouver, British  Columbia: Ministry of Children and Family Development, Government of British Columbia.
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services