Foster Youth Mentoring Program Launched in Our Community

New initiative matches foster teens with caring adults to provide guidance and support.

On Tuesday, March 31, 2010, the Community Service Center of Central Florida, a division of Family Services of Metro Orlando, together with the Florida Mentoring Partnership, hosted a mentor matching ceremony to launch the Foster Youth Mentoring Program in Orange and Osceola counties.

Prior to the event, thirty-seven local adult volunteers participated in vigorous screening and training sessions in preparation for their role as mentors. During the ceremony, 29 youth, ages 13 to 18, from both Sunnyside Village and Great Oaks Village group homes were matched with 20 mentors. Youth housed in these long-term group care facilities were selected because studies by the Anne E. Casey Foundation have consistently shown that teens in group settings need additional one-on-one adult support. Furthermore, by the age of nine years, a child in foster care is more likely to remain in the foster care system than to be adopted. Together these facts demonstrate the life-changing potential of this program.

The Community Service Center is proud to serve as the program’s pilot site for the upcoming year. Denise Hogan, Mentoring Project Coordinator with Family Services of Metro Orlando through the Community Service Center, and Lee Pates, Senior Director of the Community Service Center, as well as Roxann Campbell and Michael Thompson, both of the Volunteer USA Foundation and Florida Mentoring Partnership, were instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.

The Foster Youth Mentoring Program has garnered interest by members of the Florida Children’s Cabinet and Legislature. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp, chair the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, has voiced his support of the program. “With the ongoing support of an adult mentor, we offer Florida’s foster youth a better chance at educational success and ultimately a fulfilling life ahead. Our hope is that because they’re receiving one-on-one attention and guidance from a compassionate mentor, they’ll have a better shot at becoming an independent, confident and successful adult.” Emmanuel Tormes, Special Assistant to the Governor, attended the matching ceremony.

Due to a generous financial grant by the Darden Foundation, the initiative will be rigorously evaluated by the Florida Mentoring Partnership in the fall of 2011. The status of the matches will be considered in addition to the number of credit hours earned by the students in school, the number of mentees who pass into the next grade level, the number of senior mentees who receive scholarships, school attendance and discipline data and student attitudes about their mentor and the impact of the program.

During a time of state-wide budget crisis, we at Family Services of Metro Orlando are particularly proud to be a high-impact community based care agency in Florida’s Circuit 9. We will continue to provide support to these mentor-mentee matches in the upcoming year.

Family Services would like to thank Publix at Baldwin Park, Walmart Neighborhood Markets and the Sam’s Club foundation for providing resources and support to the matching event.

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