Therapeutic Mentoring is one of the most promising programs for children at risk. In 2014 Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates published a report confirming that mentored youth have fewer absences in school, fewer incidents of hitting others and less alcohol and drug use. These youth also finish their programs with better attitudes toward school and improved relationships with their parents.
began in 2002 and the Children’s Service Fund of St. Louis County has supported it since 2010. The program has proven to be highly effective and the demand for it continues to increase, especially in county school systems. Currently, PCHAS provides mentoring services in six St. Louis school districts as well as Boone County and Lincoln County.
Regional Director Jason Beard oversees the program for PCHAS. “Mentors work with the youth, one to one, at least weekly, usually for three or four hours,” he says. “They meet for an average of 12 months. It may be at the youth's school, home or community locations.” Mentors meet with the child and family to identify strengths, challenges and goals.
Children as young as five are referred to PCHAS by school counselors, teachers, parents and social workers. A school counselor who referred a kindergartner last year comments, “He has gone from being a boy who did not show a sense of self-esteem to one who smiles daily!”
Beard hires part-time and full-time mentors. Although they generally have a degree in education or social sciences, they all receive supervision and training that includes:
Having tried volunteer mentors, the agency finds that paying mentors produces better results. Paid mentors are more reliable, willing to commit to serving youth for 12 months, and they are more willing to participate in ongoing training.
The Child Mind Institute reported in 2016 that one in five children suffers from a mental health or learning disorder, and that 80% of chronic mental disorders begin in childhood. But studies show that a positive relationship with a caring adult can offset risk factors. Last year, in St. Louis County, more than 90% of PCHAS’ mentees were not involved with law enforcement and 62% had improved academic performance. The verbal aggression of 75% of young people served decreased and 97% had a reduction in school suspensions.
Robert Giegling, senior vice president of programs, agrees that mentoring is an intervention program with long-lasting, positive results. “There are loads of evidence about what works in Therapeutic Mentoring,” he says. “I can cite all kinds of experts and statistics from all over the country. But it all boils down to this: Somebody shows up for that child every week. Every. Single. Week. And that can make a world of difference to a boy or girl. That can change the direction of a life.”
The Therapeutic Mentoring program has served approximately 3,500 young people since its inception. To refer a child for mentoring or to become a mentor, call 314-785-0180 or write to Jason Beard via.
The Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Services Needs Assessment for St. Louis County in 2017 showed a strong need for mentors. One-third of the agencies who provided home-based, school-based and community-based services had a waitlist. They knew of 2,280 youths who were referred for such services and still waiting.