Here you'll find answers to the most frequently asked questions about mentoring and our organization.
- Q: What is the minimum age of a mentor?
Mentors must be atleast 21 years old
- Q: What does at-risk mean?
At-risk youth can be experiencing problems at school, at home or in the community. Most Partners’ youth reside in single parent homes, are very low-income and need positive role models and opportunities for positive interactions.
- Q: How and why are youth referred to your organization?
Youth are referred by human service professionals such as school counselors and social workers or juvenile justice officials. We do not accept parent referrals.
Youth are referred for countless reasons, but some of the most common are: the need for a positive adult role model, the desire to experience new things, academic help and the benefit of spending quality one-on-one time with an adult who can listen and be a friend.
- Q: Are the kids forced to participate?
Participation is voluntary. We do an in-depth intake with both the parent and youth and explain that the program is one hundred percent voluntary. We then spend time with the youth at activities every month, partially to ensure that they are participating freely. If we suspect that a youth is being forced to participate we will not match them.
- Q: What are the ages of youth that you work with?
We work with youth ages 8-17, depending on the program.
- Q: Are the youth abused?
Some of the youth do have abuse histories. This is something that we cover thoroughly during the intake interview with both the youth and the parent. We do everything we can to ensure that the abuse is not something that will negatively impact a Partnership, and we fully inform volunteers of the situation before they are matched. We realize that volunteers are not trained professionals and are not equipped to provide counsel on such a matter, nor should they be expected to do so, but a youth may share things from his or her past as time progresses and trust between volunteer and youth is built. The case manager will fully support a volunteer in this area.
We will never match a volunteer with a youth that we suspect is currently being abused. And, we are required by law to report suspected abuse.
- Q: What if I don't have the time?
A big part of mentoring is exposing a youth to new things – including activities that you already do in your everyday life. We ask that volunteers spend an average of 3 hours per week with the youth they are matched with. We encourage Senior Partners to simply include their Junior Partners in their lives by taking them to run errands, cooking dinner together, walking the dog, gardening, etc. You don't always have to engage in costly, time-consuming activities. By observing how you live your life a Junior Partner can learn a lot more than you think, especially if you are consistent.
As a volunteer, you also have a great deal of flexibility with regard to setting up activities with the youth and parent that fit your schedule.
- Q: What if I don't have the money?
What is important to the mentoring relationship is the time you spend together and not how much things cost. We encourage Senior Partners to do free, or low-cost, activities with the youth they are mentoring. We also inform Senior Partners of free and low-cost activities within their communities on a regular basis so that they can take advantage of them.
While a youth is waiting to be matched with a mentor, staff tries to establish the fact that neither we nor their eventual mentor will be made of money.
In addition, Partners organizes one free or low-cost activity per month which all partnerships are invited to attend. These include but are not limited to: bowling, ice skating, swimming, camping, museum tours and arts and crafts activities.
- Q: What if I don't have what it takes to be a mentor?
If you enjoy spending time with kids and have the free time then you have what it takes to be a mentor. Each volunteer brings with him or her a lifetime of different experiences and skill sets that are new to the youth he or she is mentoring. A willingness to try new things, the ability to listen, and the desire to make a positive impact in the life of a child are helpful as well – and none of these require any specialized education!
- Q: Do I pay for the screening process?
Prospective volunteers are expected to cover the cost of being fingerprinted at their local police station. This is usually between $10 and $20.
Partners, however, pays for the background check through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and for the Motor Vehicle Records check.
- Q: What will I learn in training?
In Senior Partner training you will learn about Partners' organizational philosophies, do role play exercises to troubleshoot situations that may arise with your Junior Partner once you are matched, and gain an understanding of what’s required and expected from you. Additionally, you will learn what you can expect from us as an organization, including a wide range of support services that have been established to help guide you throughout your relationship with a Junior Partner.
- Q: Will I be able to do further training if I want to?
Absolutely. Throughout the year we offer a series of Life Skills workshops designed to help Senior and Junior Partners improve their skills with regard to diversity, communication, school advocacy, etc. All partnerships are encouraged to attend.
Senior Partners are also eligible to attend the free Mentor Enrichment Trainings that are put on by the Youth Mentoring Collaborative and held at West High School. These trainings take place monthly and cover a wide range of topics including: preparing for graduation and college, talking to a youth about sex, building trust, setting effective boundaries, and so on.
- Q: How do you match youth with mentors?
We do a very thorough intake with youth who are referred, as well as with their parents. Once youth are accepted to a program, the program coordinator takes the youth on a minimum of one outing per month. This helps the program coordinator get to know these youth and their families well, and to build a relationship of trust that creates a positive foundation for the eventual introduction of a mentor.
We also do a thorough intake with volunteers that include two full pages of questions regarding what type of youth they hope to mentor.
We take the information from both intake processes and carefully consider each youth's and volunteer's personalities, interests and preferences before moving ahead to a match. Volunteers are able to discuss in-depth the youth that we propose they be matched with before the match ever takes place. This gives the volunteer a venue to address any questions or concerns they may have. Next the volunteer will meet with a case manager and the youth's parent to be sure that everyone is on the same page and wishes to move forward with a match.
- Q: Can I be matched with more than one child?
Yes. However, we prefer that a volunteer complete his or her first year with one child before taking on a second.
- Q: How long before I am matched with a youth?
The screening process takes an average of one to two months and includes an in-depth interview, thorough background check, and a review of all required references.
In the Denver and Adams County areas you can expect to be matched within an average of two weeks from the time that you complete the screening process, barring any extenuating circumstances.
Keep in mind that we do everything we can to ensure that a match is compatible and will be successful. This process can sometimes lengthen the matching process.
- Q: What if I have a criminal record?
Having a criminal record does not immediately disqualify you from becoming a mentor. It is imperative that you be honest when you apply regarding any past offenses because they will inevitably show up on your record as you go through the screening process. If we do find that you have withheld information you will be rejected. However, we carefully consider each volunteer's background on a case-by-case basis, depending on amount of time that has passed compliance with court orders, rehabilitation, etc.
Any conviction of child abuse and/or sexual assault will automatically disqualify a potential volunteer.