January is National Mentoring Month, and local foster care organizations are seeing a growing need for adult mentors.
Based in Farmington Hills, the Judson Center is seeking adults, specifically males, to consider mentoring foster youth through their Child Safe Mentoring Program.
The nonprofit human services agency works with foster care, adoption, mentoring and family preservation. Their Safe Mentoring for Kids program is dedicated solely to connecting youth in foster care with an adult to serve as an advocate and supporter.
“Mentors are even more important now because the COVID pandemic has left many young people feeling isolated and alone,” said Lenora Hardy-Foster, president and CEO of the Judson Center. “Our mentoring program connects children and youth in foster care ages 7 to 23 with an adult who can make a positive impact simply by listening, caring and participating in activities with them.”
The program recently noticed a growing need for male mentors and is looking for men ages 24-45 who are willing to commit time each month to a youth in their foster program.
“We tend to have a much higher number of women stepping up as mentors,” said Judson Center Chief Strategy Officer Khadija Walker-Fobbs. “For many years, a large number of male teenagers in foster care or who have been in foster care specifically require male mentors and role models in their lives.”
According to Walker-Fobbs, they currently have several young men waiting to be connected with a male mentor. The program specifically needs African-American male mentors in the Detroit metro area.
“Most of the time, young men are looking to be mentored by a man that they can connect with and ask for life advice,” Walker-Fobbs said.
The Child Safe Mentoring Program currently consists of approximately 70-75% female and 25-30% male mentors. Walker-Fobbs hopes for a more than 50/50 split of male and female mentors.
The program serves youth ages 14 to 23 who are currently or have been in foster care. Some people have aged out of foster care and are living independently, but are still part of the program and are looking for an adult mentor to connect with.
Young people who have mentors are 55 percent more likely to attend college and 52 percent less likely to drop out of school, according to Walker-Fobbs.
“People see better results getting services from peer mentors than using a therapist,” said Aland Stamps, founder and CEO of River Jordan INC in Bay City.
River Jordan was founded in 2018 with the mission of empowering current and former foster youth to become productive members of society. Their goal is to prevent homelessness, human trafficking, drug addiction and suicide among youth leaving foster families.
Through their support from Peer Mentors, the Stamps developed foster care mentor training which launched last November.
River Jordan mentors come from foster families and have gone through some sort of recovery process.
“It’s one thing when you get services from a social worker or a therapist, but when you get support from someone who’s been through what you’re going through, that’s another thing in itself,” he said.
Both the Judson Center and River Jordan share the goal of connecting youth who are currently in or have been in foster care with a mentor to help them develop their path in life through authentic relationships.
“As our young people are in or out of foster care, relationship stability and trauma are real and so having an adult in their life who is a stable person they can talk to is key and important.” said Walker-Fobbs.
According to Walker-Fobbs, one in three young people have never had a compassionate adult mentor in their lives.
“Once that authentic relationship is built, we absolutely want the mentor to be able to help share and support life skills, which will be different for everyone,” she said.
Tips and advice from a mentor can include practical life skills, such as how to budget and sort finances or encourage further education at a college or trade school.
“Research shows that these types of mentoring relationships empower youth in foster care and lead to more positive outcomes,” Walker-Fobbs said.
For more information about the Judson Center, visit judsoncenter.org.
For more information about River Jordan INC, visit riverjordan.org.