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.

Training Mentors

“I think [mentors] should be informed about- first consent in terms of establishing a relationship, what are their rights, as a mentee, what are the boundaries, they have the right to cut off the relationship, or stop the relationship, whenever they want to.” (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada Youth In Care Focus Groups)


Train prospective mentors in the basic knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to build an effective and safe mentoring relationship using culturally appropriate language and tools.1


  • Provide a minimum of two hours of pre-match, in-person mentor training.
  • Supplement with post-match training as much as possible.
  • Pre-match training for mentors should cover the following topics:
  1. Program requirements (e.g., match length, match frequency, duration of visits, protocols for missing, being late to meetings, and match termination)
  2. Mentors’ goals and expectations for the mentee, parent or guardian, and the mentoring relationship
  3. Mentors’ obligations and appropriate roles
  4. Relationship development and maintenance
  5. Ethical and safety issues that may arise related to the mentoring relationship
  6. Effective closure of the mentoring relationship
  7. Sources of assistance available to support mentors
  8. Opportunities and challenges associated with mentoring specific populations of youth (e.g., youth involved in the criminal justice system, youth in foster care, youth with mental health needs)
  9. Initiating the mentoring relationship
  10. Developing an effective, positive relationship with mentee’s family, if relevant
  • Provide pre-match training for the mentor 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
  • Use training practices and materials that are informed by empirical research or are themselves empirically evaluated.
  • Mentors should be trained in being sensitive to power differentials that are inherent in adult-youth relationships, and the skills needed for collaborative decision-making, positive communication, and resolving conflict with mentees (i.e., having conflicting goals, interests, and preferences).
  • Mentors should be taught what being trustworthy, responsible, and acting with integrity means in the context of a mentoring relationship. Mentors need to promote justice and not engage in discrimination towards their mentees. Finally, mentors need to respect the rights and dignity of their mentees and their mentees’ families.
  • For mentoring programs where mentors will interact with the mentee’s family, the Standard now requires that mentors receive training in how to develop an effective, positive relationship with their mentee’s parents or guardians. Mentoring programs need to be explicit in training mentors about the nature of the relationship that is expected between mentors and family members, so that expectations are clear to everyone involved in the match and mentors have a clear sense of how to behave with the main parent/guardian/important person in the youth’s life.1

Other Findings

Mentoring programs need to clearly address the relationship orientation of their program – instrumental and/or developmental – in both pre- and post-match mentor training.

Long-term positive mentoring relationships develop through demonstrating positive relationship behaviours such as authenticity, empathy, collaboration, and companionship.2

Training should focus on developing and sustaining these relationship-enhancing behaviours, including how to foster a developmental (i.e., cooperative, mentee-driven relationship designed to meet the needs of the mentee) versus prescriptive (i.e., mentor as authority figure) relationship.

Pre-match training

To increase match duration and the potential for positive youth outcomes, provide additional pre-match training opportunities beyond the two-hour, in-person minimum, for a total of six hours or more. Less than two hours of pre-match training has resulted in mentors who reported the lowest levels of closeness with their mentees, spent less time with their mentees, and were less likely to continue their relationships with their mentees in a second year compared to mentors who received at least six hours of training.

Post-match training

Provide ongoing, post-match training on these topics:

  1. How developmental functioning may affect the mentoring relationship.
  2. How culture, gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, and other demographic characteristics of the mentor and mentee may affect the mentoring relationship (cultural competency training). Ethnocultural empathy, or empathy towards people in racial and ethnic groups that are different from one’s own, may contribute to more positive outcomes in cross-cultural mentoring matches. This is particularly important for mentors who will find themselves in matches with youth of a different background and/or life experiences than their own.3
  3. Topics tailored to the needs and characteristics of the mentee.
  4. Closure procedures.

Use post-match training to continue to screen mentors for suitability to be a mentor and to develop techniques for early trouble-shooting if problems arise. Post-match training can play a central role in helping mentors understand setbacks, and maintain or restore momentum in the relationship.

Even if the topic of closure was addressed early on, it must be re-addressed post-match about closure procedures and approaches that increase the likelihood of a successful transition out of the mentoring relationship.

Ongoing training opportunities implemented by other agencies may include:

Training mediums and approaches

Online training is an effective way of providing high quality, engaging, standardized, and easily accessible education to anyone involved in a mentoring relationship, especially when it incorporates multimedia and interactive learning methods. Compared to mentors who received only in-person training, mentors who received both online training and in-person training had greater knowledge about mentoring, were more aware of the roles mentors should and should not play, had less false expectations, and felt more efficacious, more ready, and better prepared to mentor. Developing or enhancing behavioural skills can best be practiced and role-played during in-person training. In-person training should give learners ample opportunity to practice and apply the skills that they have learned to examples that may occur in mentoring situations. Use visual, auditory, writing, and hands-on methods to reach a variety of different types of learners.1

Key Tools & Resources

Mentor Training Event Toolkit:

Alberta Mentoring Partnership – Online Mentor Training:

Training New Mentors:

Preparing Participants for Mentoring:

Mentoring Fact Sheet: Avoiding Early Match Termination:

Mentoring Central Online Mentor Training Modules:

Fact Sheets on Mentoring and Youth Development:

Mentoring Pittsburgh Peer Mentor Handbook:

Social Networking Tips for Mentors:

Deep Mentor Training Guide:

Training New Mentors:

Growth Mindset for Mentors:

Refer to Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth for examples of training activities for mentors in newcomer youth mentoring programs (MENTOR, 2007, pp. 56-58):
Going the Distance:

  1. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from
  2. Spencer, R. (2006). Understanding the mentoring process between adolescents and adults. Youth & Society, 37(3), 287-315.
  3. Vandenberghe, C. (2013). Mentoring: A review of the literature. Calgary, AB: Alberta Centre for Child, Family & Community Research for Alberta’s Promise. Retrieved from
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services