Mentoring: Balance and Opportunity

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." -Steven Spielberg

As individuals say good-bye to 2019, and usher in 2020, we are provided with an opportunity to embrace new challenges. The idea of One Word defining an individual's focus allows them to center their time, energy, and mind on one thing. By doing so, an individual's one word grounds them and provides a lens through which to see their life moving forward. Words like present, connection, enough, share, gather and nourish take on a more significant meaning not only in our life but in the lives of those we encounter. As you ponder your one word, may I suggest the idea of tethering your word to the action of mentoring? Hoyleton Youth and Family Services provides an excellent opportunity to mentor or volunteer with youth in our community. 

January is a national mentoring month when the emphasis is on communities working together to increase the number of individuals mentoring in different ways, particularly our youth. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services consist of a team of dedicated staff serving youth within the foster care system. For over 16,904 children in the Illinois foster care system, there is an increasing need to locate adults in the crucial transition period from adolescence to young adulthood to provide support systems.1 

Mentors are needed to focus on supporting the entire individual, not just skill development, by aiding youth in navigating the choices and opportunities presented in life. For kids outside of foster care, they have support systems comprised of parents, extended family members, coaches, and other mature adults. These adults speak into their lives and help the youth maneuver through adolescence. Young people in foster care often lack what is called social scaffolding, or the process where adults guide young people in fostering relationships and supporting networks. Recall for yourself the person who talked to you about college and professional opportunities, finance, spiritual well-being, social currency, and life skills in general. Now stop, who would you be without the individual who shared their wisdom with you? The experience you have acquired has helped you avoid expensive mistakes. Or they have encouraged you to take advantage of opportunities that you have not otherwise known were available.

As youth navigate the foster care system, many will experience multiple placements while in care. Some children will "age out" of care, never having achieved permanency. Having a positive adult role model, through mentoring, sets youth up for success into adulthood. The positive relationship between mentor and mentee creates new working models of healthy relationship experiences and helps youth to be resilient. The more positive a youth's interactions are in a stable relationship with a mentor, the more likely a young person can handle adversity. Having a good relationship with a mentor helps a young person to be exposed to different viewpoints and experiences and to gain a better understanding of life skills.

There are both mentoring and volunteer positions throughout the Hoyleton community. We have youth who could benefit from a mentor/mentee relationship in our therapeutic residential care, transitional living program, and older foster youth in our Independent Living Program (ILP). Volunteers are also welcome to help in administrative roles, special events planning, and life skills instructor for youth in care. Are you interested in finding out where you fit in at Hoyleton? Individuals can contact Meghan Murphy, Development Department, at 618.688.7092 to discuss further opportunities to help our youth live their best life yet.

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