Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit

This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.

Program Population

Girls in Care

Families become involved with the child welfare system due to a range of factors and often reflect complex family dynamics. A child or youth is placed in care when it is determined that it is not safe for them to live at home. Statistics Canada measured that 47,885 children were living in foster care in 2011 (Kirkey, 2012). The majority of children in care are 14 years of age and younger (Statistics Canada, 2011).

Children in care can be vulnerable from disrupted attachments and may also suffer the effects of maltreatment by parents or caregivers (Bruskas, 2008). Youth in care also face an increased risk for poor outcomes as they transition to adulthood including poor mental and physical health, delinquent and risky behaviour, and lower educational attainment or employment status (Ahrens, DuBois, Richardson, Fan & Lozano, 2008).

However, high-quality foster care, quick and safe transitions to permanent living arrangements, and other factors—for example, extended family, informal support systems and personal resilience—can produce a different set of outcomes (Rhodes, 2013). Mentors can act as an important part of the support system to encourage and build resilience in children and youth in care. Youth in care reported that a relationship with a non-parental adult contributed to their socio-emotional, cognitive and identity development (Ahrens et al., 2008). The nature of the impact of mentoring relationships on children in care can also be shaped by the length and quality of the relationship, the mentor’s background, the child’s past relationships with parents and caregivers, their competency in social situations and developmental stage, and their current family and community context (Rhodes, 2002, 2005; Rhodes et al., 2006). A responsive mentoring program that reflects the young girl’s dynamic context can be an important support for her long-term future success.

Sarnia Lambton Rebound developed a partnership with their local Children’s Aid Society to launch a girls’ group mentoring program for girls in care. The collaboration with this agency was essential in ensuring mentors had the understanding and tools to forge healthy relationships with the girls in the program. The CAS partnered with Sarnia-Lambton Rebound to provide mentor training around the Duty to Report. CAS also informed the mentors of different situations that may arise when working with Girls in Care/Kin Care which better prepared the mentors when working with this population. Extra support was provided by the Program Coordinator to ensure and manage healthy boundaries within the relationships. In the recruitment stage, priority was given to mentors who had experience in state care and this proved particularly valuable in the relationship development process between girls and their mentors.

To include and support girls in care to participate in a girls group mentoring program, programs and mentors can:

  • Be consistent and fulfill the full commitment of the program. Programs may want to ensure that youth in care, in particular, are matched with mentors who are reliable.
  • Have the ability to be flexible, should a mentee’s living or family situation change. This could include connecting with new caregivers or social workers to share information about the program and completing additional permission forms should the legal guardian change.
  • Provide appropriate training to mentors about the children’s services system and the impact of the experience of abuse and neglect on children and youth.
  • Pay special respect to confidentiality, examining what information can be shared and with whom in relation to a youth in care.

Key Take-Aways
Girls’ lives are uniquely experienced and programming should be adapted to reflect the strengths, challenges and experiences of the population of girls you are serving. This section offered information to help you better:

  • Familiarize yourself with some of the unique considerations for working with different groups of girls
  • Celebrate diversity and reflect on the ways that mentoring programs can address barriers and embrace differences
  • Develop practices you can include in your program to be more sensitive, more inclusive and more effective to girls in your community

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org