Whether you bring a child home by adoption, foster care, or kinship, it’s imperative for your child to have transformative mentors who can help retain and encourage his or her culture. Every child needs a great mentor, but finding one isn’t always straightforward.
The Benefits of Mentorship
While your children undoubtedly benefit from a close relationship with you, there are upsides to bringing in extra voices through mentorship. Boys & Girls Clubs of America lists the following benefits of mentorship:
- Mentorship can provide much-needed consistency.
- Young people are empowered to walk their own path – knowing they’ll be accepted no matter what.
- In a positive mentoring relationship, mentors should share that they are vulnerable, imperfect beings, too.
- Mentors support and challenge teens while allowing them space to grow on their own terms.
- Mentorship looks different for every child.
- A good youth mentor doesn’t assume their own experiences are the ultimate guide for young people.
Similarly important to understanding what a mentor is, is understanding what it is not. A blog from transracial adoptive mother Rachel of whitesugarbrownsugar.com clarifies that a mentor is not a babysitter, replacement for parents or birth parents or the sole racial role model in your child’s life. She suggests setting guidelines for what you expect and hope for from a mentor based on values and safety. Rachel’s mentoring journey with her children began through conversations with local college kids and subsequent interviews.
A Military OneSource article lists elements of a good mentoring relationship:
- Your child feels comfortable with the mentor.
- The relationship is based on mutual trust.
- The relationship is based on similar interests, hobbies, or goals.
- The child and mentor spend time together or have the opportunity to spend time together on a regular basis, either in person or virtually.
Why Mentorship Matters
Children who have a trauma and loss background are faced with histories that need processing and futures that need to be navigated. Safe, secure mentorship provides one more avenue for support for your children.
In instances of adoption, an article by American Adoptions emphasizes the importance of building a child’s self-esteem through mentorship.
“As adopted children develop their identity and self-esteem, it’s especially important for them to grow in their understanding of adoption through you, their adoptive parents – and others,” says the article.
American Adoptions says that an adoption mentor could either be someone who is also adopted and can help your child process adoption or, in cases of transracial adoptions, could be someone of the same race as your child.
Along with helping process emotions, adoption mentors can also help children connect with others with similar cultural or racial backgrounds, share issues related to adoption, feel acceptance, and develop a relationship with a positive role model. The article encourages parents to utilize mentor platforms like Connect-a-Kid, Adoption Mentoring Partnership, and AFC.
According to a blog on adoptfamilyconnections.org, internationally adopted children must explore and integrate their heritage, their former and new cultural realities, their physical appearance, perceptions of them by others, and personal and societal values and beliefs.
“No child or family lives in isolation,” reads the blog. “Transracially adopted children will experience both racism and tolerance, discrimination and equality, exclusion and acceptance, and difference and sameness. Children whose parents provide them with strategies to cope with racism, discrimination, exclusion, and difference are better able to develop a positive sense of self.”
On top of your child’s learning, mentorship also gives a special opportunity for the whole family to learn. Spending time with your child’s mentor is priceless, giving you a chance for deeper understanding and appreciation of your child’s first culture. When you learn together, your child is able to to value their culture alongside the family!
Mentorship can aid parents in this effort. But, how can parents track down trustworthy, effective mentors?
There are many possible steps for beginning the mentorship connection journey for your family. AdopteeBridge, a nonprofit based out of Minnesota, hosts OurRoots, a mentorship program for youth adoptees (ages 6-17) and their adult mentors (ages 21+). The program welcomes all adoptees, from international to domestic or foster care. Additionally, Military OneSource suggests searching for mentors for your child within your faith community, youth.gov mentorship programs, or the AmeriCorps Senior Foster Grandparents Program.
However, your mentorship journey doesn’t have to begin through an established nonprofit. Like Rachel of whitesugarbrownsugar.com, you could begin your journey by connecting with students in your local community, whether high school or college. Rachel also lists connecting with area organizations or your local library.
“Having a mentor for our girls has become a beautiful thing for our whole family,” says Rachel. “When I’ve needed support (especially in a situation or question involving race), I call the mentor.”
A good place to begin your search for a mentor is through your local church or local adoption organizations. Sometimes, building family friendships is the perfect way to create a mentorship relationship organically. And, while you are working to find a mentor for your child, remember the importance of recognizing your child’s first culture in the family! Having special days to learn more about the culture, or celebrating holidays from your child’s birth country, can make a huge difference in building your child’s cultural identity.
As always, remember you have resources in Families Are Forever. Your FAF team is happy to help you begin the process to connect with other parents in similar situations as you and equip you with any resources we have. It takes a village to raise a child, and we’re a part of yours!