Paraprofessional Youth Mentoring: A Framework for Integrating Youth Mentoring with Helping Institutions and Professions
The article addresses the growing demand for child mental health services, which currently surpasses the supply. To bridge this gap, the authors propose a framework for paraprofessional youth mentors.
The authors review the current state of youth mentoring programs in the U.S. and the challenges they face. They highlight successful models of scaled mental health interventions both nationally and internationally. The proposed framework suggests three potential roles for paraprofessional mentors: 1) reducing barriers to mental health service
2) increasing engagement in services
3) providing direct services
The paper reveals that many youth mentees in formal programs come from marginalized backgrounds and present with significant mental health needs. Despite these needs, most mentoring programs focus on nonspecific, unstructured relationship-building activities. This mismatch might account for the small effects of many mentoring programs on youth’s psychological, academic, and behavioral difficulties.
The authors emphasize the potential of paraprofessional youth mentoring to address the unmet mental health needs of youth, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. By integrating paraprofessional mentoring into existing systems of care, it’s possible to provide more targeted and effective support to youth. However, the success of this approach hinges on competency-based training, professional supervision, and proper documentation of services. The paper calls for further research, policy considerations, and practical implementations to realize this vision.