The first paper describes the challenges faced by parents of youth with serious mental health conditions when receiving services from a traditional mentoring program. Through use of thematic analysis, this paper concludes that mentoring relationships can positively benefit when agencies solicit and incorporate parents' voice, especially when serving youth with serious mental health conditions. The second paper presents agency staff perspectives on barriers faced by traditional mentoring programs when serving underserved youth, including those in the foster care or juvenile justice systems and those who have left high school without graduating. Findings suggest that youth-initiated mentoring, an approach wherein youth have voice in selecting their own mentors, is a promising approach to alleviating these barriers. The third paper describes a novel mentoring program, Cornerstone Mentoring Program, which serves youth living with serious mental health conditions. Findings suggest that delivering a mentoring intervention within an existing mental health setting for youth living with serious mental health conditions is feasible and reports promising outcomes. The final paper describes a feasibility study of Fostering Healthy Futures for Teens (FHF-T), a mentoring program that focuses on serving youth involved with the child welfare system. Using a randomized control trial design, this study finds that FHF-T was well-received by participants and their caregivers and that youth served by the mentoring program had better outcomes than the control population at 1-year follow up. A brief discussion on how to increase efforts towards serving these underserved populations will follow.
This symposium represents an important contribution to the growing focus of making mentoring accessible for all youth. Together, these papers demonstrate the challenges traditional mentoring programs may face in serving underserved youth, recommendations for addressing these challenges, and examples of mentoring programs that are successfully overcoming them. By removing barriers to mentoring, these underserved youth can reap the benefits of high-quality mentoring relationships to which they might otherwise not have access.