AdoptMent (Adoption Mentoring) is a specialized mentoring program that brings foster and adopted youth together with adult mentors who have had similar experiences. Adults who have personal connections with adoption and/or foster care mentor youth who have either been adopted, are on the road to adoption, and/or feel ambivalent about adoption. AdoptMent creates a safe space for mentees and mentors to share feelings, thoughts, and questions surrounding adoption as well as to enjoy activities that focus on personal development, identity, independence, personal skill building, and having fun. Our ultimate goal is to provide adopted youth with a significant level of support in order to prevent adoption disruptions, help ambivalent youth to become open to adoption, and promote more permanent options for older youth. This enriching mentoring experience offers these young people a unique layer of support, advocacy, and guidance and the connection they build with their mentors is underlined with a mutual validation of feelings and experiences, which helps to create meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
AdoptMent is a site based mentoring program that operates 10 months out of the year (Sept – June) and convenes twice a month as a group with mentors and mentees. These sessions are held at New Alternatives for Children, a partner foster care agency which provides a site coordinator to help facilitate the program.
AdoptMent works with young people ages 14-21 and who are: 1) adopted or 2) on the path towards adoption. The program operates from Sept – June and convenes every other week as a group with mentors and mentees. These sessions are held at a partner foster care agency. Mentors and mentees are encouraged to also meet outside of these times whenever possible or necessary and are often provided with fun community based activities to participate in.
AdoptMent runs as a small group with 6-10 mentee/mentor matches. The program requires regular attendance from its mentors and mentees as well as a commitment of at least one year (ideally 2 years or more). In the past, most mentors have remained in the program for 3 or more years. A mentee may stay with the program for up to 3 years depending on his/her circumstances. It is best if mentors can remain in the program with the mentee and continue a long-lasting relationship with the young person even after he/she transitions out of the program. This unconditional relationship is a valuable asset to the youth as they move towards adulthood.>
The program sessions consist of both group activities and one-on-one time for the mentors and mentees. The activities are aimed at tying in themes of adoption and offer discussion points that can be used in the one-on-one time and help to promote healthy life choices, literacy, and better social and relationship-building skills.
While the program does have a set curriculum, it remains flexible and responsive to the needs of the youth participants. Topics covered in the curriculum include: feelings and experiences with adoption and foster care, personal and family identity, youth development, personal values, relationship building, community and connectivity, transitioning, independence, skill-building, future planning and goal setting.
Mentee-mentor matches are made at the discretion of the FCFC Program Specialist and/or NAC site coordinator. Matches are based on the information provided by mentees and mentors about their interests, personality, and needs. Mentees and mentors meet for the first time at the first session they attend.
Mentors and mentees commit to the program for at least 1 year and usually end up staying significantly longer. If a mentor or mentee leaves prematurely, the person remaining in the program is re-matched with someone from the waitlist. Generally, mentoring matches, long-standing or new, have been successful and many have developed into meaningful relationships that contribute positively to the lives of our youth.
Becoming a Mentee
We recruit foster/adopted youth from New York City’s foster care agencies and adoption programs. Youth must be between the ages of 14-17 years old and either be: 1) adopted or 2) on the path towards adoption. Youth also must be able to travel alone to the group sessions.
Steps to Become a Mentee:
- A referral is made to the program, often by a caseworker. For more information about making a referral, contact Liv Anna Homstead, email@example.com.
- AdoptMent staff will review referral information and respond to the referral source within a timely manner to confirm youth’s enrollment in the program and gather more information. **If the program is at capacity or there is not available mentor, the youth may be put on a waitlist.
- The youth will then be matched with a mentor on paper and will be provided with a program calendar. This calendar will also be shared with the caseworker/socio therapist and the caregiver. The youth may also have the opportunity to talk to or meet with program staff if they are interested.
- Once matched with a mentor, youth will be invited to the first session where he/she will meet their mentor and the rest of the participants.
Becoming a Mentor
Mentors are either recruited through Mentoring USA (MUSA) or through AdoptMent’s own outreach. We recruit dedicated and caring mentors who have been adopted or spent time in foster care and who are responsible, flexible, mature adults who have the patience and ability to commit to the program for a minimum of one year. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor will be invited to meet with the program leaders and/or a current mentor before being matched with a mentee. Mentors may also have the opportunity to observe a session to ensure his/her compatibility with the program.
Steps to Become a Mentor: If mentors are recruited by MUSA, they may follow the steps below. If mentors are recruited by FCFC, they may begin with Step 2 and will need to connect with the FCFC program specialist and a current mentor before filling out MUSA application.
- MUSA Application: Fill out the application online (see MUSA’s site here)
- a) MUSA notifies and connects potential mentors to AdoptMent staff. b) AdoptMent staff connects directly with potential mentors, describes the program, the expectations, and interviews the potential mentors to assess if they are the right fit for the program. The new mentors will then be introduced to MUSA’s program manager, who will walk them through the application, screening, and training processes**.
- MUSA will schedule the potential mentors for training. Training lasts about 2 hours and will cover general mentoring practices. MUSA will also direct the mentor to go though a criminal background check, which can take 1-3 days to process.
- The mentors must also get fingerprinted and screened for child abuse/neglect through the DOE. This can take one week to be processed.
- During the screening process the potential mentors will be connected to current AdopMent mentors who can answer any questions about the program and their experience.
- Once accepted, and mentors have completed the screening processes, they will have the opportunity to observe a session (if sessions have begun) before they have to confirm their decision to commit to participating in the program.
- The new mentors will need to confirm their participation in the program.
- New mentors must attend an AdoptMent Orientation where they learn more about the program, their role as a mentor, and a general overview of the child welfare system. This takes about 2 hours.
- Mentors are matched with mentees and attend their first session together.
This process may seem complicated and daunting, but each mentor will be walked through it and there will be open communication throughout. If there are any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Liv Anna Homstead, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentor Orientation & On-going Training
At the beginning of the year, new mentors will be required to attend a preliminary AdoptMent Orientation specific to mentors. This orientation lasts about 2-3 hours and will cover topics related to:
- Understanding the child welfare system
- Role and expectations of a mentor
- Cultural Awareness
- Adoption related issues
- How to talk to kids about tough stuff
During the first year of mentoring, new mentors participate in ongoing training and support sessions held once per month immediately after a group meeting. These sessions last an hour and offer the opportunity to process the group dynamics with a trained facilitator as well as learn information and skills that help to maximize the mentors’ relationships with and support of their mentees. The mentors’ needs determine which topics are covered; these topics include but aren’t limited to:
- Further follow-up on orientation topic
- Checking in and processing with mentors
- Gang involvement
- Effects of child abuse and neglect
- Separation and Loss
- Substance use