SERVICE AREA DESCRIPTION
The Mentorship Service Area seeks to support programs that provide opportunities for middle school girls, children of incarcerated parents and disconnected TAY to connect with caring adult mentors. The programs funded under this service area will connect youth with caring adults who will work with them over an extended period of time to provide motivation, guidance and support with the ultimate aim of achieving positive goals, exploring new possibilities and increasing the youth's self-esteem and confidence. These programs are expected to be rooted in youth development principles and to provide culturally competent services. While they may operate using a diverse set of practices, mentoring programs funded under this service area are envisioned to be most effective when the program structure includes a professional youth worker who coordinates program experiences and connection to resources, mechanisms that ensure mentors are trained and supported, and practices that base the mentoring relationship on the goals and interests of the youth.
The Mentorship Service Area consists of two strategies, Mentorship and Connective Services. While linkage and referral to resources and navigating systems is certainly an aspect of the mentor’s role in the relationship, it is not the focus of the relationship. The focus is helping mentees build self-esteem and confidence, explore possibilities and achieve goals through a relationship with a caring adult role model.
Service Area need
Research presented by Child Trends draws connections between caring non-parental adult relationships and a broad range of positive outcomes for youth including increased emotional resiliency and self-esteem, development of social skills, and decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, sexual risk behaviors and drug use. Caring adult relationships have also been found to have a positive impact on school connectedness and academic outcomes. For example, students who meet regularly with mentors are less likely than their peers to miss school. Moreover, at-risk youth who have mentors are more likely to enroll in college than those without mentors.
Developmental theories have long suggested that adolescence marks an important shift toward independence, separation and development of self-identity. Girls, however, face pressure from peers and the social environment that may discourage the discovery and expression of their “true selves”. Gender norms and the “female ideal” promoted by a social media-saturated, sexist and violent culture make girls today increasingly vulnerable to a variety of physical, social, emotional and mental health problems. This can be observed in the social and emotional learning assessments conducted by the CORE Districts in California. The data show stark differences in self-efficacy scores between girls and boys, particularly during middle school. Additionally, youth risk behavior surveys in San Francisco show girls to report higher than average rates of suicidal ideation. Having a mentor to help navigate these difficult social and cultural contexts supports the growth and development of a positive self-identity for middle school girls.
Children of Incarcerated Parents
A 2015 survey of incarcerated adults in the San Francisco County jail system found that 59% are parents or primary caregivers of a child under the age of 25, yet only 35% report having visits with at least one of their children. For children of incarcerated parents, the ability to develop healthy relationships is compromised due to the stress and trauma of the major disruption to their primary relationship attachments. Compounding on the stress and trauma of their parent’s incarceration is the strong possibility of being removed from their home and experiencing another type of family disruption. Without the stability of a caring adult relationship, children of incarcerated parents are at heightened risk for poor academic outcomes, involvement in the justice system, substance abuse disorders, and serious mental and physical health issues.
While a variety of circumstances and conditions describe the population of disconnected TAY in San Francisco, recent reports and available data suggest that these youth lack stable and secure relationships with caring adults. In the 2017 Homeless Point in Time Count and Survey, 62% of homeless youth in the Bay Area reported not having a caring adult in their lives. During community input sessions conducted by DCYF for the 2016 Community Needs Assessment, disconnected TAY expressed interest in pathways to upward mobility and mentorship with adults in their communities who had successfully transitioned out of public housing, off public assistance and into gainful employment and independent living.