Developing Better Mentoring Programs for Maryland’s Youth

Posted January 15, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog improvingmentoringprograms 2019

For young peo­ple fac­ing tough life cir­cum­stances, the ben­e­fits of qual­i­ty men­tor­ing pro­grams are clear: These ser­vices help youth form pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships with adults and peers; keep them in school and on track toward grad­u­a­tion; improve their job prospects; and even reduce the like­li­hood they’ll use drugs. Find­ing such a pro­gram, how­ev­er, can be hard.

One orga­ni­za­tion — Mary­land MEN­TOR — is work­ing to improve the qual­i­ty and quan­ti­ty of men­tor­ing pro­grams through­out the state to help young peo­ple con­nect with a car­ing adult.

Many peo­ple who run men­tor­ing pro­grams, espe­cial­ly small ones, don’t receive pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment,” says Sadiq Ali, direc­tor of Mary­land MEN­TOR. We sup­port pro­gram lead­ers so they can pro­vide the best men­tor­ing possible.”

Ali and his col­leagues have launched sev­er­al projects to strength­en exist­ing pro­grams and increase the num­ber of men­tors statewide. For exam­ple, they:

  • con­vened the first cohort of the Mary­land Men­tor­ing Insti­tute, which equipped Bal­ti­more City-based providers with the tools and resources need­ed to run effec­tive and safe men­tor­ing programs;
  • recruit­ed and trained more than 50 men­tors in Bal­ti­more to help young peo­ple who are not work­ing or in school build pro­fes­sion­al-devel­op­ment skills;
  • cre­at­ed a data­base that con­nects vol­un­teers with young peo­ple who are seek­ing men­tors; and
  • con­sult­ed with men­tor­ing providers to address a vari­ety of pro­gram needs.

In its biggest under­tak­ing, Mary­land MEN­TOR host­ed 15 town halls with near­ly 200 providers across the state to learn more about the youth they serve and the oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges their pro­grams are fac­ing. Find­ings from these dis­cus­sions are sum­ma­rized in a recent report, Uphold­ing the Covenant: State of Men­tor­ing in Mary­land.

Lessons from the report show:

  • Men­tor­ing pro­grams in Mary­land pre­dom­i­nant­ly serve youths of col­or ages 1217.
  • More than half of the respon­dents’ pro­grams use a group men­tor­ing model.
  • Men­tor recruit­ment, train­ing and reten­tion — as well as inad­e­quate fund­ing — are fre­quent chal­lenges. Providers also report­ed need­ing sup­port with fundrais­ing and grant-writ­ing, part­ner­ship devel­op­ment, and fam­i­ly engagement.

When com­mu­ni­ties improve the qual­i­ty of men­tor­ing pro­grams avail­able, they improve young people’s chances to build good futures,” says Tomi Hiers, Casey’s vice pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Civic Sites and Com­mu­ni­ty Change.

In addi­tion to sup­port­ing men­tor­ing pro­grams in the state, Mary­land MEN­TOR offers rec­om­men­da­tions for fun­ders who are seek­ing to strength­en youth-serv­ing pro­grams. Advice here includes:

  • pro­vid­ing grants to sup­ple­ment trans­porta­tion, meet­ing spaces and oth­er over­head costs;
  • sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions in learn­ing to improve men­tor train­ing and reten­tion, part­ner­ship devel­op­ment, and fam­i­ly engage­ment; and
  • incen­tiviz­ing their employ­ees to men­tor reg­u­lar­ly with paid time-off.

Learn more about Mary­land MENTOR

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