One of the best ways to keep youth from running away is to be there for them as a mentor. Learn how mentoring can help keep youth safe and off the street.
One of the best ways to keep youth from choosing to run away is to be there for them before they consider running away.
Community resources, social service professionals, and role models like teachers, coaches or those choosing to volunteer their time can provide mentoring to youth who are in need of positive influences. A listening ear and honest concern can prevent a youth from developing the need to run away.
According to statistics provided by NRS’ 2015 Crisis Connection Analysis, 54% of youth contact NRS who are in crisis but have not yet run away (30%) or are contemplating running away (24%). Our crisis hotline and connections center “liners” are able to speak with youth about their concerns and help them create plans of action that will keep them safe and off the street. Often, these youth are simply looking for a person to turn to. A mentor is a person who can provide the attention and care that a youth who may feel isolated can receive.
NRS routinely connects youth in need of services to organizations that provide mentoring services. Additionally, NRS’ runaway prevention curriculum contains lessons and information that can help direct youth to the persons in their lives that can act as a mentor.
Positive Influences on Youth Youth who are in crisis may make decisions based on irrational feelings or beliefs. Module 3 of our runaway prevention curriculum, “Personal Influences,” asks youth to consider, “Whom can you count on in a crisis?”
The module provides exercises and lessons that teach youth to be aware that they can turn to someone or an organization for support. The module reinforces the fact that youth must have options that will provide basic needs like shelter and food, as well as having a positive outlet to express themselves. It also gives youth the tools to recognize positive and negative influences around them, and how these influences affect the decision-making process. Applying these lessons will give youth the skills to acknowledge the mentoring resources available to them in their immediate surroundings.
Community Responsibility Another module in our curriculum sheds light on what may happen if a youth chooses to run away. This module entitled “Community Response and Responsibility” contains an exercise called “Twenty Questions.” This activity shows how many segments of a community are affected by a runaway. Those not only include the immediate family or foster parents, but law enforcement, the school the youth attends, their friends, their spiritual worship community, etc. The youth is then exposed to the wide range of caring, concerned persons or groups in their lives. By knowing they are not alone, they may reconsider running away, and instead, access resources around them to express their needs.
Resources for Mentoring Services The NRS database has many resources that operate mentoring services for runaway youth or at-risk youth.
National Safe Place offers outreach and prevention to youth through community institutions and facilities. Licensed Safe Place agencies offer mentoring and intervention services provided by adults to youth in need.
The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia has a program dedicated to mentoring youth in need called “WE CAN.” Volunteer mentors assist professional staff to provide services that help promote positive outcomes while focusing on the strengths and interest of the child.
Tumbleweed Center in Billings, MT runs a street outreach program that includes a life-skills program, teaching youth ways to better cope with life. The main focus is on improving young people’s ability to make better choices, embrace healthier options, and avoid negative, risky behavior. Lessons include relationship building, how to find a job, computer skills, financial management and others. These mentoring lessons help runaway youth to decide for themselves what kind of life they want to lead.
Boys Town California offers peer mentoring services for families in need. Trained peer mentors help troubled families stay together. Through weekly contact, mentors provide information and instruction as well as emotional support to families who may have one or more members at risk of running away.
These great organizations are helping youth to stay safe and off the street by providing guidance in their lives. Mentoring is an effective tactic in the defense of children’s futures. If you need more information, you can reach our youth crisis hotline and online connections center at 1-800-RUNAWAY, or online at 1800RUNAWAY.org.