The key steps involved in developing and delivering a mentoring program are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your Community Action Plan and informing your mentoring approach. These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to your local community.
The Youth Mentoring Hub has a number of resources to support groups to develop their own programs, including a set of benchmarks, or standards, to ensure the programs operate with purpose and deliver real outcomes.
Mentoring is flexible and can and should be tailored to suit the individual needs of the young people who will be involved in the program. What works for one community may not work for the next and so it is important to consult with young people, partners and your local community to design your mentoring program. This will help to ensure the program is what the young people want and that it can be supported by the community.
The Youth Mentoring Hub suggests the following approach to choosing the right approach for your community:
Details about how the program will be managed and what processes will be required to deliver your mentoring program also need to be considered.
Ensure that your child safeguarding policy is up to date and clear. Consider using resources available through the Australian Childhood Foundation.
Develop a recruitment strategy to attract appropriate mentors and young people. Consider how you will spread the word in your community; you may promote the program through the local paper or radio station, school newsletters, partner organisations, or local community champions.
Include information that informs the young person of the opportunities of the program, and clearly outlines the expectations of the mentoring relationship.
Mentors may include local community champions, music or dance teachers, corporate employees and university students. They may be identified through schools and tertiary institutions, sporting clubs, arts clubs, youth groups, workplaces, volunteer associations and community agencies.
Establish a process for the referral/application of young people to the program. Young people may be referred to the program from a variety of sources, including teachers, counsellors, community workers, health professionals and parents and guardians. Your partners may be in a good position to help you identify young people that would benefit from a mentoring program.
It is important to develop a clear selection process for assessing the suitability of mentors and young people.
For mentors, this includes developing selection criteria and establishing an application process. Selection criteria may address the need for mentors to be committed to investing time and energy into the relationship, and to role model an appropriate relationship to alcohol and other drugs.
A screening process to confirm potential mentors suitability as a youth mentor and a process for informing successful and unsuccessful applicants is also recommended. The Australian Youth Mentoring Network provide a benchmark for mentor selection process:
“A well-documented process that involves more than one person in decision making and includes: an interview, reference check, national criminal history check, state and territory Working With Children Checks (where young people are under 18 years), and at least one instance of face to face contact with program staff prior to final selection.”
Comprehensive orientation and training for mentors and young people will assist them in building an effective mentoring relationship. The Australian Youth Mentoring Network suggest that training should cover:
Mentors require training and resources to enable them to perform their role. Young people require training and resources to prepare them for participation in mentoring.
Your group may provide this training or contract another organisation that has the appropriate skills and knowledge.
Implement a matching process which focuses on the needs of the young person and takes into account the relevant characteristics, skills and interest of the young person and mentor. Mutual suitability can be determined via personality, shared interests and geographical location.
Support the set up of an official agreement between the mentors and mentees on the terms and conditions of the mentoring relationship.
For example, Mentor/Mentee Agreements can identify key elements of the relationship such as duration of the mentoring program, likely method(s) of contact, likely frequency of contact, maximum length of contact, and key mentoring activities and goals.
You will need to monitor the contact and progress of the mentoring relationship and provide ongoing training and support. Group programs will need to provide safe and structured environments for the mentees’ participation in activities. Activities may include sport, craft, going to the beach, cooking or walking.
Mentee Progress Records are useful tools for recording meeting dates, objectives discussed, outcomes and next steps.
A formal match closure policy is recommended to be clear about how the mentors/mentees exit the program and guidelines regarding future contact between the mentor and young person.
It is important to celebrate the successes of the mentoring relationship and to assist the young person to define next steps in achieving their goals.