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Sierra Vista seeks mentors for foster youth

POSTED January 13, 2012 9:07 p.m.

January is National Mentoring Month, and the Community Moms Guild, a program of Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, is recruiting mentors for local foster youth.

The Sierra Vista mentoring program has been in place for several years, and there are currently between six and 10 mentors. The program matches mentors with foster children who could benefit from the consistent attention of a caring adult.

“It’s all about building a trusting relationship… what they do together depends on what the interests of the mentor and the child are,” said Mary Jo Mastin, director of foster care services for Sierra Vista.

Mentors first go through a background check and interview process. Then they receive several sessions of group training before they are matched with a foster child. They meet at least one hour per week with their mentee at the Sierra Vista office. The first several meetings are facilitated by a Sierra Vista staff member, to make the child and his or her mentor comfortable.

Mentors do everything from crafting to sports and games with their mentees. One pair quilts together, another plays basketball. After the first few months mentors might choose to take their mentees on adventures to the library, a coffee shop, the park or wherever the pair wants to go.

The minimum time requirement for being a mentor is one hour per week, but mentors can choose to put in more time with their mentee. Mastin said the program works best when mentors can dedicate at least one year, but the longer the better. She used the example of one woman who has been mentoring a girl in foster care for several years. The girl has moved, switched foster families, and had other major changes in her life since starting the program.

“Her mentor is the one constant in her life,” Mastin said.

Sierra Vista has been offering the mentoring program for several years on a small scale. The goal of the Community Moms Guild is the open the program to the public to get more mentors involved. They would like to have a mentor for every foster child who is a client of Sierra Vista Child and Family Services.

“Mentors serve as vital role models to our foster youth. Every child in our care deserves a mentor, someone who is in his or her corner who can be a friend, an advisor, a shoulder to lean on, an open ear and an inspiration. Our community can make a difference for these children by positively impacting the direction of their lives,” Mastin said.

Sierra Vista will be holding an orientation and sign-ups for potential mentors at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at 101 Park Ave., Modesto. Anyone interested in the program may attend, but there will be a formal interview process and background checks before applicants are accepted. Anyone with questions can call 523-4573.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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