When two strangers are brought together, as is the case when a volunteer adult mentor is matched with a young person, there are bound to be risks involved, especially if the young person comes from a high risk environment.
A mentor is often spending time alone with the young person and there is also a strong focus on developing a close, meaningful relationship. Many young people are facing challenging circumstances and are often vulnerable.
Youth mentoring programmes should have policies and procedures in place to reduce risks to a minimum. This requires careful planning, thorough screening, orientation and training of programme staff, mentors and young people and acceptable safety procedures. Topics that need to be considered would include:
- Processes to deal with conflict or grievance of some sort
- Safety and security issues
Programme staff should discuss possible issues that may arise during a mentoring partnership and how best to prepare for potential risk factors.
Risks are considerably reduced when there is effective ongoing training and supervision of the mentoring partnership by programme staff.
Effective record-keeping is a vitally important part of a risk management strategy.