By Linda Peterson, Manager of Training and Technical Assistance
It’s all about the kids.
When you think of youth mentoring, what generally comes to mind? Perhaps a man and a boy shooting hoops, a college student taking her teenage mentee shopping for the latest fashions, or a retired adult reading to an elementary student in school.
All of these scenarios are right, but do you ever wonder how mentoring programs keep these youth safe, match the right adult with the right youth, ensure that the youth is experiencing a quality relationship, and that the adult follows through on his or her time commitment?
The answer: there is a tremendous amount of planning, management and daily operations that should be put in place before any adult is matched with a youth.
Quality-Based Membership is a statewide effort by Mass Mentoring Partnership to help youth mentoring programs pursue excellence. It is based on the national mentoring standards established by MENTOR in the Elements of Effective Practice.
MMP encourages programs that have been operating -- and with matches in place – for more than one year to complete a 58 question self-assessment. First, the program completes the basic online membership application, once approved MMP staff sends the program the self-assessment to complete. Once completed, MMP reviews the assessment and meets with the program staff to discuss the strengths of the program, as evidenced by the assessment responses, and makes recommendations on areas that warrant improvement or adjustment.
A joint work plan is created and MMP and the program work together to complete the tasks in a timely manner. Upon satisfactory completion, the program is awarded the highest level of membership: Partner Member. Membership is completely free of any charges at all levels.
But what if you are a new program, or a program that doesn’t currently have the staff capacity to complete a self-assessment? You are still encouraged to become a member at the basic level as an Affiliate Member. The application process is simple and only takes a few minutes to complete. MMP staff receives and reviews the application and, once approved, welcomes the program to membership. (Only those interested in becoming a full partner member then receive the self-assessment.)
There are benefits and incentives for youth mentoring programs, as well as youth development programs, in joining Quality-Based Membership. Members at all levels receive access to mentor referrals, match activities, materials for National Mentoring Month, and free technical assistance opportunities. And that is just the beginning!
Staff at member programs not only receive training and technical assistance from MMP, but are provided opportunities to network with other programs, learn best practices, and share successes and challenges.
Research documents the impact that a positive experience can have on a youth in a mentoring program. Poor quality programming can result in an unintended negative impact on youth. This negative impact can have a worse effect than if the youth was never in a mentoring program.
Mentoring also has a positive impact on the mentors. These adults often report on how much they have learned or been affected by their mentoring relationship. Quality mentoring programs spend a notable amount of time supporting their mentors, ensuring the mentor understands his or her role, has connections to staff if an issue arises, and access to ideas, activities, and resources that help the match succeed.
MMP gathers all the data that members bring to the table, and uses it to advocate for public and private resources in the field. Biennially, MMP conducts a census across Massachusetts mentoring programs to determine the state of mentoring – the needs by region, the goals of programs, who is mentoring whom, number of youth on waiting lists, etc. The data not only helps with advocating for resources, but informs and assists programs as they consider strategic planning, collaborations and partnerships.
Quality-Based Membership is being implemented by other state partnerships, and discussions have arisen about designing a national quality-based membership model.
MMP continues to be at the forefront of best practices and a leader in quality-based membership for youth mentoring and youth development programs.