“By them letting the mentee know they’ve got their back and they’re not alone in everything, their successes and their flaws. Just, you know, having that safeguard knowing that there’s someone behind you who will actually allow you to keep going, right? In case you fall, they’re there to pick you up in a sort of a way.” (Covenant House Youth Consultation)
In this section, the types and effectiveness of mentoring for youth facing barriers will be explored.
There are a few key, underlying frameworks that provide the philosophical and scientific underpinnings for current thinking and practice in youth mentoring.
- Prevention Science is a theory based on helping prevent individual risk factors and supporting development of protective factors.
- Positive Youth Development theory acknowledges the inherent worth of individuals and supports them in developing their assets.
- A Strength-Based Approach emphasizes an individual’s strengths and ability to change their own life circumstances.
Programs can utilize various types and models of mentoring. The traditional model popularized by Big Brother Big Sisters, where an older person mentors one young person, is considered formal mentoring whereas a less structured relationship with no formal matching process are typically considered informal mentoring.
There are also various mentoring relationship styles, which will define how a program is developed and implemented. Although Developmental and Instrumental Mentoring both take a mentee-centred approach, instrumental mentoring focuses more on setting and achieving goals, while developmental mentoring places emphasis on building the relationship first. Whichever relationship style is used, the literature recommends Transformative Mentoring when working with youth experiencing higher needs. In transformative mentoring relationships, mentors operate from a youth-centred approach, are willing to go ‘above and beyond’ to build trust, and are persistent and reflective in their roles.
Finally, it is important to understand the effectiveness of mentoring for youth facing barriers. Much of the literature has found that formal mentoring programs that build strong relationships can elicit positive outcomes for the mentees, however effectiveness for youth facing particular barriers varies.