BEST Kids Mentoring Program uses a comprehensive, integrated approach to break the cycle of distrust and learned helplessness to which foster care youth frequently fall prey. Our program model is based on research relating to risk and resilience factors for children. This research indicates that one of the strongest protective factors that a child can have is a close relationship with a caring adult who serves as a mentor and role model. BEST Kids provides each child with a one-on-one relationship with a caring, consistent adult who serves as a mentor, role model and friend.
The program enrolls children between the ages of six and eleven who reside in group homes or foster care in the District of Columbia’s Child Welfare System. BEST Kids Mentoring Program works with the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to identify the children who have the capacity to participate and are most at need. Early intervention increases the likelihood that the youth will develop trusting relationships and be susceptible to the influence of positive adult role models.
We recognize that there is no quick fix. BEST Kids Mentoring Program is committed to providing mentors for these children as long as needed or until they become 21 years old. The mentor’s primary responsibility is establishing a relationship of trust with his or her youth. By devoting at least ten hours a month and maintaining weekly contact with their mentees, mentors have the opportunity to model healthy behavior and nurture the unique talents and individual interests of each child.
Peer Group Events
BEST Kids augments the 1:1 mentoring by providing an experiential-learning Peer Group program designed to help each youth develop a sense of belonging. Each age-appropriate Peer Group meeting takes place on the second Saturday of the month and gives mentors and mentees the opportunity to participate in a fun activity, socialize successfully, broaden their horizons, and connect with their peers and with society. Peer Group also allows the adults to model cooperative behavior so that the children understand how to work together as a diverse team. During some of these peer groups they will perform service projects in the community so they can experience the benefits of giving back and proudly sharing their accomplishments. For more information about Peer Group, check out the Program Volunteers page.
BEST Kids Mentoring Program is using a well-tested assessment that is completed by the teacher, caretaker, and child upon in-take and annually thereafter. Additional assessments as well as the child’s report card provide us with a comprehensive description of each child’s strengths and weaknesses in the behavioral, social, cognitive, and academic domains. The results of this objective information are used to set behavioral, social, and performance goals that the mentors will promote in the coming year.
Partnering with the Child’s School
Often the child’s teacher(s) and school have important information concerning each child. BEST Kids taps into this information and works to support the teacher and the learning process by working through the social worker assigned to each child. This method requires the social worker, caregiver and, subsequently, the teacher to become more involved in the child’s academic life.
Partnering with the Child’s Caregiver
We believe the caregiver’s role is the most important role in each child’s life. In addition to providing respites from caregiving, our mentors work hard to communicate effectively with each caregiver on a regular basis to help improve the child’s availability for positive relationships and learning. Our hope is that when a child enters foster care, our mentors will advocate among their circle of friends and acquaintances to enroll future foster care and adoptive parents.
Advocating for the Child
When a child is placed in foster care, we encourage our mentors to advocate among their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to become involved in supporting a foster care youth. In addition, with social workers across the country suffering from large, burdensome caseloads, BEST Kids Mentors and Staff often play a large role in advocating for the highest quality additional services and care to be provided to the youth.
BEST Kids reaches these children early and in a preventive and comprehensive way. By building a long-term bond with a well-trained and supportive adult mentor and an attachment to a peer group, each child is more likely to develop the skills and self-confidence that will enable him or her to become a productive adult. Our desire is to turn these children away from the path of learned helplessness so they can become resourceful citizens who value learning. Our ultimate goal is for these children to become gainfully employed or go to college.
For more information on BEST Kids Mentoring Program, we invite you to visit our Philosophy and Mentor Support pages. If you’d like to become a mentor check out the minimum requirements to see if you are eligible.