January is National Mentoring Month!

Hephzibah mentors make a difference in the lives of group home and foster care youth

“When youth (in foster care) are able to form close and trusting relationships with caring adults . . . who act as gatekeepers for their futures, they can be effectively buffered from the stresses and disorder of their own families and the disruption of shifting foster care arrangements.”

https://reachga.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Mentoring-Youth-in-Foster-Care.pdf

Hephzibah is fortunate to have several dozen of volunteer mentors and therapeutic mentors who devote thousands of hours each year in service to the children in the group home and in our Family Based Services Program. Serving as Heartmates, Big Sibs, Technology Mentors, and therapeutic mentors, these remarkable individuals play an important role in helping children who have experienced severe trauma learn to form healthy, positive and trusting relationships and progress on their journey to recovery.

Hephzibah’s volunteer mentors include Heartmates who make a long-term commitment to spend a few days each month mentoring a child in our group homes; Big Sibs, who are students between the ages of 16-18 who serve as role models for kids in the group home; and Technology Mentors, who help children in the group home learn to become tech-savvy citizens of the digital age.

Hephzibah’s therapeutic and volunteer mentor program through Family Based Services is twofold, providing therapeutic mentoring for the child and respite for the caregiver. It offers a parent/caregiver the opportunity for a break from the daily responsibilities of caring for a child with special needs, with the goal of keeping the family stable. Mentors are role models who facilitate the goals of the child in the home or community for several hours on a weekly basis (for therapeutic mentors) and two to three times a month for volunteer mentors. Therapeutic mentoring services focus on skill development and/or recreational activities to address the child’s individual goals.

Hephzibah’s therapeutic mentors program through Family Based Services offers a parent/caregiver the opportunity for a break from the daily responsibilities of caring for a child with special needs, with the goal of keeping the family stable. Mentors are role models who facilitate the goals of the child in the home or community for several hours on a weekly basis. Therapeutic mentoring services focus on skill development and/or recreational activities to address the child’s individual goals.

Eliot Pontius has been a therapeutic foster care mentor for more than eight years and currently is a mentor for a young boy in foster care. “What I enjoy most about mentoring is seeing the children grow and develop and see them be about to do some favorite activities in the community,” Eliot says. “With my current mentee, some of our favorite places to go to are Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Adler Planetarium. He also loves any activities that involve water and the outdoors, se we have gone swimming numerous times over the years.”

Eliot notes that initially there are many things the children are not able to do for themselves. “However, it is really gratifying to watch them mature over the years and become more independent.”

Hephzibah is grateful to all our volunteer and therapeutic mentors. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer mentor, please contact Hannah Weigel, Volunteer Manager. To learn more about the therapeutic mentoring program, contact Margaret Motto, Foster Parent Recruitment and Support.

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