How Mentoring Prepares a Foster Mum

It has long since been a dream of mine to become a foster mum. It started back in 1997 when I used to volunteer 2 mornings a week at the Ocean View Centre for Learners with Special Needs. Most of their stories were heartbreaking, and to be honest, I just wanted to bundle all of them up in my little car and take them home…but even then I knew this wasn’t the answer.

Fast-forward 20 years later, with my husband and two children of our own, I started working at LifeXchange, a non-profit organization where we do a one-on-one mentorship approach to youth at-risk. Because of this holistic approach we follow with all our young people, working for LifeXchange seemed to tie in effortlessly with my dream of becoming a foster mum.

The Challenge of Foster Children in South Africa

Girl and mother

“…foster children can benefit tremendously from the attention of mature, caring adults who serve as mentors.”

I have a heart for fostering because these children are among our nation’s most vulnerable young people. Many have been abused or neglected, resulting in a host of emotional and developmental needs. Even the most resilient child can be thrown into a pattern of depression, self-doubt, and isolation when faced with the daunting world of foster care. Because of the disruption in their lives and the loss of support networks, foster youth need many things: a safe home environment, academic assistance, healthcare, and stable peer relations. Because they may experience frequent transitions and instability, foster children can benefit tremendously from the attention of mature, caring adults who serve as mentors.

Mentoring: A Worthy Solution

Because foster youth are often overwhelmed by a rotating cast of caseworkers, foster parents, clinicians, legal advocates and other adults, a mentor can serve as an island in the storm—a continuous presence and source of support.  Foster youth need positive relationships with adults they can learn from and grow with. Mentors can model appropriate behavior, provide guidance and advice, and enable foster youth to form healthy developmental relationships with adults they trust. 

Storm wave

“…a mentor can serve as an island in the storm…”

Those who mentor with LifeXchange are well prepared to be this model. We know that the success of a mentoring relationship is dependent on 4 factors: Frequency, Duration, Consistency – all of which brings about an Emotional Connection with the mentee. Thus the most important thing you can do as a mentor is to continue to show up. Even when it is hard. Even when it is a little scary. Just keep showing up. Just being there consistently for the child is more important than people realize. Research has also shown that because children who have been in foster care for any length of time are, without doubt, at additional developmental risk, you will be in a better spot if you are mentoring a child through a formal program such as the LifeXchange Online Mentoring Training Course.

Online Mentor Training Course

Through extensive research LifeXchange has conducted over the last 10 years, the Online Mentor Training Course will be a platform where you can:

  • Feel comfortable to go in with questions and doubts, and to come out feeling like you have been heard, recognized and validated in a positive way.

  • Have the opportunity to process and work through things with the support of your process coordinator and not just be told what to do.

  • Know that you could acknowledge mistakes and learn what to do different next time.

  • Be able to process your experiences, thoughts and feelings by writing in your journal on a weekly basis during the Online Mentoring Training Course. This time of reflection will enable you to become more attentive, perceptive and recognize the unique need of your mentee.

At the end of August I myself will be partaking in LifeXchange Online Mentoring Training Course and be matched with my first mentee! I am so looking forward to meeting her! I believe this will provide me with the skills that will prepare me in fulfilling my dream of becoming a foster mum.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, said:

“Mentoring relationships can play an enormous role in helping foster youth reach their academic and personal potential . . . and can help foster youth learn to thrive when someone gives the energy and time to show that they care.”

In my personal opinion a mentor is someone who allows a person to see the hope within themselves, just like a foster mum (and mum) allows a child to see the hope within themselves. I have realized that it was not just a dream…that my dream didn’t die…it was just sitting idle whilst God prepares me for it…through mentoring!

By Nikki Thoresen

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