For most foster children, every adult in their world is paid to be there.
Young people in foster care face difficult transitions over which they have no control. Many have survived abuse and neglect in their homes. Most move regularly to new communities, schools, and families. They usually lack someone in their lives who is there just to be with them.
Silver Lining Mentoring seeks to change that.
“It’s different when there’s an adult who’s there, not because it’s connected to a paycheck, but because they’re invested in that kid,” said Silver Lining Mentoring CEO Colby Swettberg at Tuesday night’s SheGives Boston non-profit presentation.
Since its inception in 2001, Silver Lining Mentoring has connected young people in foster care–often the neediest children living in group homes–with long term, volunteer adult mentors who provide the children with much-needed stability and counseling.
The mentors provide support for the kids, helping them cope with trauma and teaching them valuable life skills. And they’re there for the long haul, even after the kids age out of foster care system. “We get people what they need for as long as they need it,” Swettberg says.
This is in contrast with foster care support, which drops off when children turn 18. “When they turn 18, the rug is pulled out from under them. Find housing, navigate healthcare, find a job.”
Because of the lack of support after reaching adulthood, many young people who age out of foster care end up homeless or incarcerated. Others fight battles like substance abuse. That’s why at Silver Lining Mentoring, the mentor-mentee relationship lasts an average of 55 months, a number that is growing.
That’s also why the organization initiated Learn and Earn, a new program that teaches young people approaching 18 the life skills they will need well into adulthood. The program also gives them the opportunity to raise money that the organization matches.
Silver Lining Mentoring is also piloting a new housing program that provides mentees with safe, stable, and supportive housing for a full year after aging out of the foster care system.
But they still need your help. “We’re looking for ways to open doors to new communities who can help with mentoring,” Swettberg says. You can find more information about volunteering or getting your company involved here.
Mentors don’t have to be trained social workers, Swettberg says. They just need to be that one consistent adult who shows up. “They don’t have to have all the answers,” she says. They just need to make a commitment to being there.
Learn more about Silver Lining Mentoring at their website.
Check out our photo gallery from the event: