For many young people in and from care, having access to a peer mentor, particularly a mentor with care experience, allows young people to achieve stability. Whether it’s an individual who can offer support surrounding education or career options, basic skills like cooking or budgeting, or provide guidance on accessing resources like dental care or counselling, having someone who understands firsthand the unique struggles of youth transitioning to independence can make a significant difference.
“A lot of young people in and from care don’t have anyone they can count on. They don’t have healthy, safe relationships with others that add value to their lives. Having a good support person, like a mentor, is one of the most life changing experiences a young person can have.”
The Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC) offers peer-to-peer mentorship for youth in and from the care system. Reshma, a PARC youth leader, works to research various Toronto-based resources available designed to support at-risk youth. “I work with youth to accomplish goals, such as applying for scholarships or college applications,” says Reshma. “I guide each young person as they complete their own research in going about everyday tasks, like building a resume, preparing for interviews, learning about the appropriate attire to wear in an interview, finding tutors, and completing class assignments.” She adds that by facilitating life skills workshops focused on sexual health, substance abuse, gambling prevention, cooking, and building self-esteem, she can connect with many real issues facing these young people.
“A lot of young people in and from care don’t have anyone they can count on,” says Reshma. “They don’t have healthy, safe relationships with others that add value to their lives. Having a good support person, like a mentor, is one of the most life changing experiences a young person can have.” Adding that a PARC mentor significantly impacted her own life, Reshma says that she “wouldn’t otherwise have been able to achieve the goals” she set for herself.
Along with PARC, Children’s Aid Foundation funds other youth mentoring programs, the CHEERS Program, founded by a former youth in care, that focuses on providing educational, skill, and career-development.
“Having a mentor that’s also has been through the system and aged-out, started post-secondary, or has clear career goals, makes it easier for other young people to make action plans and start working towards their own goals,” says Reshma. “It also allows the young person to witness firsthand that it’s possible to acknowledge your life in care and still live a wholesome life, a ‘normal’ life without forgetting your past.”