Blog: Mentoring

National Mentoring Month: A Question From the Field

Q: How can our juvenile drug court (JDC) maintain and sustain a mentoring program?

A: Mentoring programs can enhance the success and effectiveness of JDCs. Maintaining and sustaining a mentoring program requires cooperation among JDCs, community, and stakeholders. JDCs must have access to a full range of funding, staffing, and community resources required to sustain a mentoring program over the long term.

The longevity of any JDC program relies upon funding and community support. Courts that have been successful have leveraged cross-system resources and opportunities to obtain more funding from all available state and community resources. Community support increases the adaptability and sustainability of mentoring programs by providing mentors, funders, collaborators, and communication agents. It also increases opportunities for contact between youth and positive environments, provides activities for mentors and youth to engage in, and provides youth a feeling of belonging.

OP-ED: Always Learning How to be a Better Mentor

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission.
Role: Mentor, Status: In Progress
It’s nearing 8:30 p.m. on a Thursday. A gorgeous 4-month-old girl with beautiful brown eyes and cocoa skin is monopolizing my time.
“London is 14 pounds now,” Danielle says. “The doctor says she’s thriving.”
Danielle, the real focus of my visit, is London’s mother and my mentee. Before we were matched nearly eight years ago, I was provided four details: She was 15 years old, lived in a group home, had anger management issues and was an avid reader. I’d taught teenagers, supervised a group home, instructed English to kids with anger management issues and loved to read since childhood. As much as a “soul mate mentee” could exist, Danielle was mine. My goals were to spend quality time with her and help her if I could.
Quality time has been everything from an evening at the movies to catching up while helping her move. Help has ranged from finding her a tutor to securing her a place to live. Through a friend, I found her housing after she returned from a semester of college at her dream school that left her saddled with debt. I felt relief but Danielle was crushed. The facility was a transitional group home and for someone who had clawed her way to Spelman through a rotation of high schools and more than 20 housing situations while in foster care, it felt as if her perseverance had been in vain; like it was punishment for completing her first year of college.
As is her way, she stuck it out and then created a better solution for herself. Danielle’s fierce independence has been one of the most rewarding and frustrating aspects of mentoring her. She often felt counted and tracked but rarely valued. At times, I worried if I contributed to this feeling. There is no roadmap to being a good mentor and although we “matched” in key demographics — black, female, born and raised in South L.A. — our 13-year age difference meant we were in very different stages of life. When I endured my own personal upheavals or transitioned into more demanding and time consuming employment, I remained within reach but did a poor job of initiating contact.
In the interim, Danielle kept inching forward. She did things on her own and alternately took my advice and disregarded it. I would vent my frustration at the latter but most of it was reserved for me. Was there something I could be doing that would make her take my more crucial advice seriously?
Somewhere along the way, I stopped making what she did or did not do a reflection of my mentoring and just loved her for who she was and whoever she was becoming. Today, Danielle is juggling her own apartment, re-enrolling as a junior in college and securing new employment. Between motherhood and a budding parental partnership with the child’s father, she has ventured into a life role that is divorced from my firsthand experience. While she has grown and matured as a young woman, I’ve had to improve as a mentor. I was never a replacement for her parents and learned through trial and error that I couldn’t be.
Being a mentor has made me aware that my role in her life has value but also limits. I am not a martyr, a savior or a caretaker to Danielle. I cannot give her what others owe her (a safe and secure childhood), but I can help her better navigate the life she does have. A purposeful mentor understands this, accepts it and reinforces it.
Yet old habits die hard. As I hold her daughter, I have concerns. How will she navigate being a mother? Like anyone else, she’ll use the cherished and terrifying experience of her own childhood to inform but not dictate her parenting. Danielle has been through hell and back, so she is uniquely qualified to protect her daughter from nightmares that most of us couldn’t even conjure up.
Of course there is much more to Danielle’s story, but it is not my job or my right to tell it. A good mentor understands this most of all. I’m not writing her story. I’m just helping with some of the more critical edits.

[VIDEO] Mentoring Works - Following Olivia in Seattle

Reclaiming Futures helps communities develop networks of caring adults that connect justice involved youth to a wide range of activities where they learn social skills, job skills and new behaviors that help them stay drug-free and crime-free long after they complete treatment and probation.
Are you trying to recruit mentors in your community?
Please take a moment to share Olivia's story of gratitude for her Reclaiming Futures King County mentor, Hazel Cameron. We thank Hazel, of the 4C Coalition Mentoring Program, who helped Olivia break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. 


The Legacy of Helping Teens for 31 Years

Jamie Ortiz is leaving a legacy of service in Ventura County Probation Agency, where caring adults are helping break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Because of the relationships that Jamie has built, Reclaiming Futures Ventura County, CA, teens are connecting to mentors and educators.
Countless teens, like “JM”, are renewing their relationships with family and making positive contributions to their communities.
“JM” has continued the legacy of service by presenting to middle school students at Red Ribbon Week and helping other young people reclaim their futures.
We thank Jamie, who retires at the end of March, after 31 years of service. Jamie's contributions to Reclaiming Futures Ventura County, CA and these partnerships will last for generations.

Happy Valentine's Day

According the the Campaign for Youth Justice, over 10,000 kids will spend this Valentine’s Day in an adult jail or prison, without the support of loved ones.
Reclaiming Futures is building networks of caring adults with whom teens in the justice system can be connected—and an array of activities where young people can learn social skills, job skills, and new behaviors that will help them stay drug-free and crime-free long after they complete treatment and probation.
This Valentine's Day, Reclaiming Futures encourages you to mentor and volunteer in your community and support young people. Together, we can work to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Learn more about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community to:

  • Change the way your community treats kids in the justice system with substance abuse problems.
  • Help young people stay out of trouble with the law.
  • Improve public safety and save money.
  • Give young people the support they need—more treatment, better treatment and beyond treatment—to turn their lives around.

The Need For Mentors Has Never Been Greater

Watching a music awards show on television recently, I was struck by the number of winners who enthusiastically thanked someone who mentored them. If these talented young men and women benefitted by having a mentor, imagine how much mentoring could help the many at-risk kids who each day face social and economic pressures to disengage.
January is National Mentoring Month, a reminder of both the value of mentoring and the pressing need for caring adults to step forward and become involved in helping our youth.

There are more than 5,000 mentoring programs serving an estimated three million youth in the United States today. This sounds impressive, yet those of us in the field realize we are only scratching the surface when it comes to meeting the needs of at-risk youth -- youth who are struggling academically and socially because they lack caring adult guidance and support. An estimated 15 million young people nationwide are in need of a mentor. And the stakes are high: nationally, one out of four high school students will drop out this year.

Top 21-25 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012

This has been quite a year for our juvenile justice blog. Not only has readership more than doubled (thank you!) but we've partnered with a number of great organizations and journalists to provide you with more frequent analysis, research and ideas for reform.
As last year, our articles explaining why "Scared Straight" tactics do more harm than good, continue to be some of our most-read and shared posts. But this year, we also took a look at the effects of trauma on kids, raise-the-age efforts and the Supreme Court decision to ban life without the option of parole for juveniles. 
This week, we're doing a countdown of the top 25 stories from 2012.
25. Mentoring: Best Practices for High Risk Youth
Mentoring has been shown to reduce drug and alcohol use and help justice-involved teens get back on track. Jessica Jones share five best practices for a successful mentoring program.
24. Inside the Juvenile Justice System: A Look at How the System Works
While readers may be familiar with the criminal system through tv shows, the juvenile system is less well-known and understood. The County of San Diego explains the juvenile system.

Report Recommends Referring Juvenile Youth to Mentoring Programs

According to a Global Youth Justice report, mentoring is the ideal way to rehabilitate justice-involved youth. Mentoring has emerged as a low-cost delinquency prevention and intervention option that capitalizes on the resources of local communities and caring individuals. “Mentoring programs can build proactive tendencies and improve young lives and, eventually, adult productivity in ways that the Juvenile Justice settings leave youth impacted and deterred from guidance,” states the report.
Although 26 states in the United States have developed mentoring programs, there are different pathways to mentoring for each of the juvenile justice services and basic qualifications a justice-involved teen must meet to participate.
Teens in the juvenile justice system can be referred to one of the following services:

  • Teen/Youth Court has diversion and mentoring programs which are administered on a local level by law enforcement agencies and probation departments.
  • Delinquency Court is commonly associated with juveniles who have committed a crime, offense, and/or violation and a juvenile’s actions are confined to the jurisdiction of the Delinquency Court.
  • Dependency Court is associated with foster care, abuse and neglect issues involving youth and youth decisions are monitored and administered by the state. Often youth appear in Dependency and Delinquency Court simultaneously.
  • Juvenile Correction is considered a high-security facility for long-term and safe custody of juveniles having committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors with the continuum of services and mentoring referral determined by state statute.
  • Juvenile Detention is a secure residential facility providing temporary and safe, usually 72 hours or less, custody of juveniles who have been restricted to an environment with the juvenile services and referrals determined by the jurisdiction/private entity operating the facility.
  • Juvenile Probation provides supervision and monitoring to youth under the jurisdiction of the court, and probation officers have the ability and jurisdiction to determine services and supports for the youth and his/her family needs.

Mentoring Can Set Foster Youth on a Path Toward Success (and Away from Juvenile Justice System)

“My future is to have a happy family, have a career, be something in life, be a role model, and teach people the right thing.” These are the aspirations of one ninth grade foster youth at the Arise Academy Charter High School. Unfortunately, for too many youth in foster care, without the necessary guidance and support from committed and caring adults, dreams often fade into a harsh and bitter struggle for survival. Nationally, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care annually and their surrogate parents—state child welfare systems—try to prepare youth with the essential knowledge, skills, supports and social networks to navigate the challenges of adulthood. But the state hasn’t proved to be a very nurturing parent and social workers can only do so much. Foster youth need adults in their lives, outside of the system, who will listen, share their time, care and experiences, and show and connect them to alternative pathways that heighten their chances to have productive and hopeful adult lives.
Study after study focuses on the dire life outcomes that foster youth tend to experience when they leave care. Facing chronic unemployment, low levels of academic achievement, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early pregnancy and parenting is enough to make you think these are throwaway youth—too difficult to help. A recent report reinforces the challenge by demonstrating that older youth in foster care are at greatest risk for disconnection—neither in school, vocational training nor the workforce. Without the network of friends, family and caring adults that most youth outside the system enjoy, how can the social skills needed to succeed be developed? Who can provide them with the emotional, psychological, financial, and other supports, necessary to sustain a connection with mainstream economic and educational opportunities? These are questions that I deal with daily at the Stoneleigh Foundation. But I also can’t accept that abused and neglected youth, who have experienced multiple traumatic experiences in their lives, need be subjected to a long life of struggle as an adult—menial jobs, teen parenting, unstable housing, cash assistance? It’s immoral, and these children deserve the most that our community has to offer them. Every day I wake up knowing that something must and can be done.

Helping Youth Feel Safe, Cared For Key to Breaking School-to-Prison Pipeline

Editor's note: This story is part of a 10-part investigative series: Lessening the impact of incarceration in Oakland.
Nick Smith was shuttled from high school to high school in recent years, whenever a relative died or was shot.
When his mother died of cancer three years ago he moved from San Ramon Valley High School to San Leandro High so he could live with his older brother. When his brother was shot and killed, he moved to Oakland to live with another brother. By the time he got to Oakland Technical High School his senior year, he discovered he hadn't taken enough core academic courses to graduate. Nobody had counseled him to take the right classes; indeed he did not have any adult in his life he could turn to for advice.
“Teachers can’t interpret a student’s situation," Smith said of what it was like to be in school during all the rocky and sad events of the past few years. "They didn’t know what was going on.”
Adding to the wounds, staff at some of the high schools did not seem to expect much from him or care one way or another what happened to him.

Addressing Youth Crime by Teaching Social Skills through Sports

Enrolling disadvantaged teens in pro-social activities may greatly decrease violent crime arrests and increase graduation rates, according to a new study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab
In the Crime Lab study, 800 disadvantaged boys in grades 7 - 10 were placed in Becoming a Man - Sports Edition (BAM-Sports Edition) programs during the 2009-2010 school year. The participating boys experienced a 44 percent drop in arrests for violent crime and a 23 percent increase in graduation rates. 
The BAM-Sports Edition program focuses on devleoping skills related to emotional regulation, control of stress response, interpersonal problem solving, goal setting and personal integrity. These are social-cognitive skills that research shows predict success inIt includes small group sessions, out-of-class homework assignments and after-school sports activities. The sports activities are designed to reinforce conflict resolution skills and program attendance.
According to the research brief:

Artists Offer Positive Youth Development, Mentoring in Snohomish County

I believe all young people can succeed.
The professionals, community members and other caring adults in Snohomish County, Washington agree.
Annie Mulligan and other generous artists in Snohomish County are mentoring young photographers through a program called Promising Artists in Recovery (PAIR), modeled after Reclaiming Futures. The PAIR program connects teens in the county's juvenile justice system with local artists. This powerful work introduces young people, like Ayrton Clements, to mentors along the road to success. Ayrton’s photography appears at right.
The second installment of this three-part series in was featured July 16, 2012 in The Herald of Everett, Wash.

Positive Adult Role Models Central to Teens’ Success in Juvenile Justice System and Beyond, says Report

A report released on National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day details the extent to which traumatic events impact children and young people involved in the juvenile justice system. In addition, the report points out the importance of children and teens developing close relationships with caring adults soon after entering the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
"Promoting Recovery and Resilience for Children and Youth Involved in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems,” examines the positive impact that the Children's Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) has had with children and youth by creating a “trauma-informed workforce.” Trauma-informed workplaces collaborate “to develop, implement, [and] evaluate effective trauma treatment and services. In addition, [they partner] with other community agencies to promote service delivery approaches so that trauma services are effectively implemented within local child-serving community service systems.”
Despite the fact that it’s possible for some young people to experience traumatic events and come out virtually unscathed, studies show that victimization can often lead to life changing consequences and result in a multitude of issues later in life. According to an NCTSN study, children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events are at increased risk of being arrested in the future. In some cases, young adults who have experienced traumatic events are as much as five times more likely to go through the juvenile justice system.

Today at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) Live Chat with Hazel Cameron and The Seattle Times

Discuss the impact of mentoring on at risk youth Wednesday June 13th between 12:30-12:45
Please join Reclaiming Futures King County Community Fellow Hazel Cameron of the 4C Coalition in a live chat hosted by The Seattle Times.

Here's the lineup:
12 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. Seattle Police Department.
12:15 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Prometheus Brown, also known as George Quibuyen, wrote a song about the shootings in a Sunday Seattle Times guest column. Check out his video and lyrics here.
12:30 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Hazel Cameron is executive director of the 4C Coalition, which mentors at-risk youth. Editorial writer Lynne K. Varner wrote about mentoring as a way to protect the public from street violence.
12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Andrew J. Swanson is a musician and Cafe Racer regular who wrote a moving op-ed about the friends he lost in the shooting and how we can honor them.
Join the chat. Please share comments or questions about mentoring.

In Baltimore, Police Mentor Troubled Kids (and Keep Them Out of Juvenile Justice System)

In Baltimore, Maryland's Eastern District, police officers are taking a proactive and community-centered approach to keeping families and neighborhoods safe. 
Police officers realize that in order to be effective at their jobs, they need to build trust and cooperation with the communities they serve. And a police force in Baltimore is going one step further by actively working to find solutions to their community's problems and becoming positive mentors to children in rough neighborhoods.
Writing in today's Baltimore Sun, police officer Quinise Green explains:

We see ourselves not just as enforcers of the law but also as problem solvers and supporters of the people in our "hood."Our district commander demands that we be an integral part of the community. We go on walks with stakeholders in the neighborhoods to identify problems and find ways to fix them. If we see kids playing where they aren't supposed to, we don't just yell at them to move; we find another place they can play.
One such place is the Eisenhower Foundation Oliver Center, which is funded through the Department of Justice and home to the Youth Safe Haven program. I serve as a mentor to high-risk kids from the Barclay neighborhood at the center. Their lives are littered with challenges most Americans don't have to face: hunger, homelessness, parents with serious substance abuse problems and wrenching poverty. Some days, the snack and lunch at the youth safe haven is their only meal. It is a tough life for our 6-to-11-year-olds. For many of these children, the program has been their lifeline for survival.

Wake Forest Law School Students Mentor Troubled Teens in North Carolina

An integral part of Reclaiming Futures' six step model is connecting troubled young people with positive and caring adult mentors. In Forsyth County, North Carolina, Wake Forest Law School students are volunteering their time to mentor teens and provide that positive influence.
Our very own judicial fellow Judge William B. Reingold spearheaded the partnership between the Pro Bono Project and Reclaiming Futures. He recruited students by sharing the benefits of being a mentor while detailing the great need in Forsyth County. 
Writing in the Pro Bono Project's blog, law student Ramie Shalabi explains the partnership:

The Wake Forest University School of Law students meet at least once a week with their mentees and participate in activities such as bowling, prom dress shopping, and playing basketball. The mentors are required to write “contact notes,” which they submit to Advanced Placement monthly, to help ensure that the program is running effectively.
Although law students make a one-year commitment to the program, most of this year’s mentors have expressed their desire to remain involved in their mentee’s lives. Kelsey Baird (’13), a mentor, called her experience “valuable as it is fulfilling . . . and one of the best programs I’ve been involved in at Wake Forest.”