What is Connections?
Connections is a Mentoring Program that matches at-risk youth, ages 6 to 18, with carefully screened, trained volunteers. The purpose of Connections is to aid in creating nurturing and supporting meaningful relationships between children and mentors that will encourage each child to grow into an assertive, capable and compassionate adult. A recreational and friendship focus between the mentor and child will allow the mentor to enter the realm of the child’s life (school, home, church, peers, etc.). This outlook offers a positive, broad-based program that focuses less on specific problems and more on meeting youths’ most basic developmental needs. The mentor’s role is to support the child in their various endeavors, not explicitly change the child’s behavior or character.
What are the Responsibilities of a Mentor?
The Mentors role is multi-faceted, enriching children’s lives and addressing their need for a positive adult contact. It includes a commitment to directly relate with the child for at least four to eight hours per month for a period of 12 months. Through a professionally supported relationship with a caring adult, children will be assisted in reaching their highest potential as they grow into responsible adults.
How Can I Be A Mentor?
The process is simple. You can download the application directly off this website or request one from any Juvenile Court employee. Once you complete that and submit it to Juvenile Court, the program coordinator will be in touch to discuss your interest in the program, set up fingerprinting and obtain references. You will be involved in a short six hour training to equip you with tools to help you succeed in this new relationship. The classroom instruction provides important opportunities to ensure that mentors develop realistic expectations of the program in addition to focusing on relationship building, communication skills, values clarification, child development and problem solving.
How Can I Refer a Child to the Program?
Any at-risk child between the ages of 6 and 18 can be referred to Connections. If you feel that a child you know is in need of extra support, they are eligible for referral. Please note that both the child and their parent/guardian must agree to be part of the Connections program and meet certain criteria before a match can occur. A referral form can be downloaded from this website and should be sent directly to the program coordinator in care of the juvenile court.
How do I know that my child will be safe?
Volunteer Mentors are recruited, carefully screened and trained by the program coordinator. Both federal and state fingerprints are obtained through the Sheriff’s Department upon written consent of the prospective mentor. Additional checks are sought through both the county and federal Sex Offender Registry. Volunteers are also screened through references, training and home checks. Any volunteer determined to be unlikely to keep their time commitment or who may pose a safety risk to any child will not be permitted in the program.
After I have a match, will there be support?
Yes. At Connections, we work as a team. Support will be given to mentors and children on a regular basis with the first contact occurring within two weeks of the initial match. Ongoing support and supervision will be provided to the adult, child and child’s family. Training and advice will be provided to help ensue that the match is satisfying and fulfilling for all involved. It is anticipated that relationship between the child, mentor, family, coordinator, school personnel, juvenile court employees and clergy will develop into a team approach to help each child succeed both academically as well as within the community.
What do mentors and children do together?
The options are endless. Go for a walk and talk, help kids with their homework, visit a park, go to the library, attend a sporting event, and the list goes on! The goal of the program is to build a relationship that will influence a life and ultimately, teaching each other new skills can be the foundation for better self-esteem, so try something new! When children have more opportunities for growth through their relationship with a strong, positive adult role model, they positively impact their friends, families, schools and community.
I still have questions about Connections. Is there someone I could call or email?
Yes. Rebecca McKelley is the program coordinator and she can be reached at the courthouse at 330.674.5841 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org