At Rodor Housing and Support we believe that the role of a support mentor is central to the implementation of the Children (Leaving Care) Act’s main provisions, including needs assessment and pathway planning.
Peer mentoring is seen by young people to offer a different type of relationship from professional help and successful mentoring for young people leaving care usually combines ‘instrumental’ and ‘expressive’ dimensions during the course of the relationship. One dimension may lead to the other, but in any direction. Young people will migrate both backwards and forwards; this is how many young people experience the transition to adulthood, but care leavers will be supported to follow a clear and direct pathway to independence.
Support mentors and young people see the process itself as shaping the development of the relationship. The balance between instrumental and expressive dimensions depends mainly upon the responsiveness of the mentor to the changing needs and circumstances of the young person. Goal-setting is part of this dynamic process – set goals are often changed and new ones agreed, linked to the young person’s changing life course. It is at best a flexible and negotiated process, working with not on young people.
For young people leaving care, who are coping with challenges of significant transitions, mentoring provides a different kind of additional support – and that may in part explain why mentoring at Rodor Housing and Support is identified as promoting the resilience of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Cos when you leave care, you’re in a flat, you’re by yourself, you know. You need someone there to support you. Not everyone has family, not everyone has friends, but I think a mentor is essential. (Clarice, mentored for over three years)
In the context of an increasingly formalised, professional and target-driven culture in child welfare and youth policy, mentoring at Rodor is able to offer a complementary but different experience of a relationship to young people at the critical period of their transition to adulthood, young people who also often lack consistent support by their families.
Or, as one young person put it, it’s about “having someone for me who will sign post me and support me in making positive choices”.