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.


“If you’re dealing with youths [who are] just transitioning into whatever choice of identity they want to have – they’re not actually there yet – a lot of times, they’re questioning it. So, having a little bit of background as to what they’re going through mentally, health wise, physically … even if you can’t physically help that youth do it, or whatever, at least you can have more insight, and get [them] the help that they do need if they’re going through a crisis. Whether it’s something that’s going through their head or something physical.” (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada Youth In Care Focus Groups)

Key Lessons

  • Less information is available on effective mentoring for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth. This is a clear gap in our current understanding of best practices in mentoring.
  • Program planning for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth should include:
    • Recruiting LGBTQ identified staff;
    • Developing anti-discrimination and confidentiality policies; and
    • Encouraging matches to participate in LGBTQ positive activities.9
  • Mentor training for mentors working with LGBTTQQIP2SA youth should include understanding confidentiality, how to support youth with bullying/harassment, using inclusive language, responding to homophobia, and unpacking biases.9, 10, 12, 14
  • Staff should be aware of local agencies that support LGBTQ youth and be willing to refer parents to these agencies.9

Existing Tools & Resources

CLICK mentoring program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender youth. Policy and procedure manual: MentoringManual.DOC

UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity:


Effective Mentoring for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Pansexual, and Asexual (LGBTTQQIP2SA) Youth 


Standards & Good Practices

(linked to positive outcomes for participants)

Other Pertinent Info

(from other studies & reports)

Program Planning

Organization should have an anti-discrimination policy that explicitly mentions LGBTTQQIP2SA issues.9



Adults and youth are not well connected in some LGBTTQQIP2SA communities and as such mentoring programs can create a safe space to bridge this gap.9, 13

One study found that for a sample of LGBTTQQIP2SA youth, only 16% had “accessible” role models (people in their lives, such as family members, teachers, etc.) versus 60% having “inaccessible” role models (e.g., celebrities). Additionally, younger LGBTTQQIP2SA youth aged 16-19 years are more likely to report inaccessible mentors compared to older LGBTTQQIP2SA youth 20-24 years old.3

Incorporating natural mentoring into programs for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth could help increase the level of social support the youth feels and consequently, also reduce negative outcomes associated with identifying as LGBTTQQIP2SA.8

Program Implementation

Due to the stereotype that LGBTTQQIP2SA people are predatory, one program created clearly defined roles for adult-youth mentoring relationships to ensure wider community support and formalized procedures are in place. This includes screening, training and follow-up procedures for mentors.7

Staff recruitment should include LGBTTQQIP2SA people.9


Gay or lesbian role models are more difficult to find due to the fact that a questioning youth’s parents are unlikely to share their identity. Thus mentoring can be a promising intervention to support younger LGBTTQQIP2SA people in feeling connected to those who have already come out and in building an LGBTTQQIP2SA identity.1, 11

Group mentoring can be a better model for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth who are homeless or having chaotic living situations and cannot maintain a one-on-one mentoring relationship.13

LGBTTQQIP2SA youth usually develop natural mentoring relationships later than heterosexual youth and youth of colour are much less likely to have natural mentors at all. LGBTTQQIP2SA youth were as likely to be informally mentored by family members as school-based role models. Natural mentoring relationships between teachers and LGBTTQQIP2SA youth can help youth feel more connected and safe in their school communities. These relationships have also been shown to have positive effects on the likelihood of the mentees in attending post-secondary education.5

Examples of mentoring programs for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth:

Mentee Referral, Selection & Training

In the SOY mentoring program, trans youth are targeted for recruitment. This program also requires mentees to identify as LGBTTQQIP2SA or be questioning their sexual orientation or gender status.13

Mentees must respect confidentiality with their mentors.14

Mentor Recruitment, Screening & Selection

Recruitment of LGBTTQQIP2SA mentors should be done through LGBTTQQIP2SA communities and agencies. Mentors who are trans-identified should be specifically recruited. Additionally, mentors should not be excluded just because of a criminal record. The candidate should have a chance to contextualize any record.9, 13

SOY mentoring program volunteers must complete an application, attend the mentor training program, sign an agreement to maintain confidentiality, agree to a criminal reference check, and complete a medical history form in order to ensure the mentor has the physical capacity to adequately fulfill the role of mentor.13

If dealing with challenges, refer to the suggestions in Mentoring Tactics.9

Effective natural mentors provide:

  • Social support
  • Emotional support
  • Informational support – providing information and advice (e.g., safer sex practices)
  • Self-appraisal support – helping the person feel confident and accepting of themselves
  • Unconditional support – accepting the person no matter what!8

Mentor Training

Mentor training for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth should include:

  • Helping mentors understand your policies on confidentiality– how and to whom should the mentor discuss issues related to their mentee coming out/ issues of harassment and bullying due to homophobia;
  • Ensuring mentors keep the mentee’s sexual orientation confidential, even if it was disclosed to them because “outing” the mentee could cause damage to the mentee’s other relationships;
  • Understanding and practicing inclusive language and not assuming which pronouns the youth would prefer. Program staff should inform mentors that they should use the terms that the youth uses;
  • Practicing how to respond to situations of homophobia and how to provide advice to their mentee about experiences of homophobia; and
  • Unpacking their own biases.9, 10, 12, 14

Matching Process

Consider specifically matching LGBTTQQIP2SA youth with LGBTTQQIP2SA adults or very supportive and understanding adult allies.9, 11

Same-sex matching may not be the best option for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth- matching based on interests and other shared experiences may be more effective.6


LGBTTQQIP2SA teens and adults may feel disconnected from each other because their contexts of living a non-heteronormative lifestyle is very different. Additionally, LGBTTQQIP2SA adults must be cautious not to influence LGBTTQQIP2SA youth about how to take action in their lives and in advocating for issues that adults believe are important. The relationships should be supported by adults, rather than led by adults.4

LGBTTQQIP2SA adults should recognize that they can learn from LGBTTQQIP2SA youth. This is more proof that a reciprocal relationship can be supportive of the growth and development of both the mentor and mentee.4

Mentoring Relationship Development

Due to the many challenges LGBTTQQIP2SA youth face with family dynamics, adults mentors may be involved with supporting their mentee in returning to school, seeking work, and finding housing.7

Mentors are not counsellors/ social workers, so if their mentee comes out to them they should consider utilizing external resources to support the mentee.10

Activities that allow mentors and mentees to participate in LGBTTQQIP2SA positive activities should be planned/encouraged by the staff.9

If the mentor or mentee is LGBTTQQIP2SA identified, it is important to openly examine and discuss the stigma associated with that identity and problem solve any issues related to prejudice and discrimination.2

Mentoring relationships for LGBTTQQIP2SA youth can result in the match developing very close bonds where they are almost familial.11

It is important that any hierarchy in relationships is diminished. Positive mentoring programs for LGBTQ youth and adults are reciprocal where both the mentor and mentee gain something from the relationships.11, 14

If a mentee discloses about their gender identity/ sexual orientation there are some things to remember when responding- see Mentoring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.9

Match Supervision, Support & Retention

Programs should check-in with mentors and mentees regularly to avoid participants feeling stressed or overwhelmed and do not burn out. Mentors should also participate in ongoing trainings.13, 14 Mentor relationships must remain platonic and if they become romantic, the relationship should be formally ended.14

Parent/ Caregiver/ Family Involvement

The program and mentors can support parents if their child comes out by listening and referring them to other support organizations. If the program is designed to match LGBTTQQIP2SA adults with LGBTTQQIP2SA youth, be honest with the parents about the program design.9


  1. Alexander, C. J. (1999). Mentoring gay and lesbian youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 10(2), 89-92.
  2. Russel, G. M., & Horne, S. G. (2009). Finding equilibrium: Mentoring, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(2), 194-200.
  3. Bird, J., Kuhns, L., & Garofalo, R. (2012). The impact of role models on health outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(4), 353-357.
  4. Bohan, J. S., Russell, G. M., & Montgomery, S. (2002). Gay youth and gay adults: Bridging the generation gap. Journal of Homosexuality, 44(1), 15-41.
  5. Gastic, B., & Johnson, D. (2009). Teacher-mentors and the educational resilience of sexual minority youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 21(2-3), 219-231.
  6. Johnson, D., & Gastic, B. (2015). Natural mentoring in the lives of sexual minority youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(4), 395-407.
  7. Lepischak, B. (2004). Building community for Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 16(3/4), 81-98.
  8. Torres, R. S., Harper, G. W., Sánchez, B., Fernándes, M. I., & the Adolescent Medicine Trial Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions. (2012). Examining natural mentoring relationships (NMRs) among self-identified gay, bisexual, and questioning (GBQ) male youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(1), 8-14.
  9. Barajas, J. (2005). Mentoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Mentoring Tactics. Retrieved from
  10. Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. (n.d.). Tips for volunteers: Mentoring lesbian and gay youth. Retrieved from
  11. Hackford-Peer, K. A. (2010). Mentoring the imagination: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth engaging and expanding mentoring in Utah (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  12. Jucovy, L. (2000). Mentoring sexual minority youth. Technical assistance packet #2. National Mentoring Center.
  13. Supporting Our Youth. (2007). CLICK mentoring program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender youth. Policy and procedure manual. Sherbourne Health Centre. Retrieved from
  14. UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. (2013). Queer mentorship program manual. Retrieved from
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services