Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960


By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

Helping At-Risk youth can be life changing for mentor and child


March 5, 2013

Recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a study entitled, “The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcome for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles,” which studied over 1,300 children, ages 8-15 years old, in the foster care and the Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation programs within the state of Washington.

The study showed that youth who are “high risk” benefit from having adult mentors in their lives. These adults bring commitment, love and expectation to the kids who may not have that because of circumstances beyond their control.

According to the Washington State Department of Health and Social Services, “The study showed that higher-risk youth with mentors had improvements in symptoms of depression, as well as gains in social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades. The reduction of symptoms of depression is important because almost one in four youth report symptoms of depression. Research has also linked depression to a host of other short- and long-term problems for youth.”

It makes perfect sense that children who have an adult in their life who truly care for them will become a successful, caring adult themselves, hopefully one who contributes to society instead of adding to society’s problems.

For many of the kids in this study, they have already had adults let them down in life and many of these kids, as well as those who are not considered “high risk”, suffer from different degrees of depression.

It seems that having a positive and constant adult role model in their life could only make things better for them.

DSHS Asst. Secretary of Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation John Clayton said, “I have for a long time believed in and supported mentoring. The data found in this report verifies that mentoring is a valuable and meaningful opportunity for the youth served by the Department and that the investments in mentoring have an impact on the lives of young people.”

This holds true for youth from no risk to high risk.

Washington State Mentors said the following, “While youth from all backgrounds benefited from mentoring, it is noteworthy that higher-risk youth, who are often considered “hardest to serve” in mentoring and other social programs, had gains that were at least as strong as those for youth from less challenging backgrounds.”

As a lay person, when it comes to mentoring, it seems logical that kids need adults in their lives that will stand by them in good and in bad, who cares if they come home each day, who encourages them to work hard in school and who helps them with homework each night.

We all know that this is why so many young people turn to gangs —the lack of an appropriate and caring adult in their lives.

In these days of being busy, busy, busy, we need to step back and really decide what is best for our kids. Do we really need to add on to their already taxing schedule with more sports, dance, lessons, etc. or would it be better for them to see our love, as parents, by sitting next to them at the dinner table each night and talking about their day, the good, bad and ugly and really getting to know what goes on in the lives of our children.

I know that as a parent I want to be my children’s mentor and my hope is that all parents feel this way. For those who’s parents don’t have that luxury, I am glad that there are adults out there who are taking on the responsibility to mentor these kids.

Let’s face it, we all want someone to care about us.


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