On June 23, 2017, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to authorize funding to support mentoring programs that have a proven track record in serving foster youth. Rep. Bass serves as a Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, which is a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to improving the country’s child welfare system.
“It is critical that we raise awareness about the unique challenges young people in the system face,” Bass said. “In all of my years working in child welfare, meeting thousands of children either in or out of care, we’ve heard their voices clearly: They want a consistent source of advice and support–someone that will be there when it matters most and for all the moments in between. Many people think of mentors as something supplementary. But for these kids, sometimes it’s all they have. I’ve introduced this piece of legislation to not only showcase the importance of modernizing the child welfare system but also to raise awareness about this important national issue. There are kids in every congressional district that would benefit from this bill’s passage.”
“Youth in foster care face enough challenges. Having a consistent caring adult in their lives shouldn’t be one of them,” said MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership’s CEO David Shapiro. “Mentors offer much-needed stability and support academic achievement, professional and social-emotional development, and provide the kind of individual attention often not possible through the child welfare system.
The Foster Youth Mentoring Act would expand urgently needed access to this critical asset for so many more young people in need. Closing this support and opportunity gap for youth in foster care through evidence-based relationships can help reverse the negative outcomes we see far too frequently for these young people compared to their peers. MENTOR thanks Representative Bass for her tremendous leadership in working to improve outcomes for these young people and elevating the personal stories of foster youth to a national level through her work in Congress.”
Read their joint op-ed in the Huffington Post about the importance of mentorship here.
The bill connects youth in foster care with adult volunteer mentors by providing support for mentoring programs for foster youth. The bill would:
- Authorize funding to provide support to mentoring programs that serve foster youth. Programs would be eligible to receive funds to support the expansion of their services to more youth in foster care and to improve services for current foster youth in their programs.
- Ensures that mentoring programs participating in the grant program are currently engaged or developing quality mentoring standards to ensure best practices in the screening of volunteers, matching process and successful mentoring relationships.
- Provide intensive training to adult volunteers who serve as mentors to foster youth to assure that they are competent in understanding child development, family dynamics, the child welfare system and other relevant systems that affect foster youth.
- Increase coordination between mentoring programs and statewide child welfare systems by supporting the expansion of mentoring services for foster youth.
The Foster Youth Mentoring Act seeks to address the need for greater support of mentoring programs that serve youth in foster care. Foster youth face challenges as they navigate growing up often without the support of a consistent caring adult. The Foster Youth Mentoring Act seeks to fill that gap to provide foster youth with the social capital, resources, and support they need to develop positive relationships and connections.