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Kinship plans group mentoring pilot project

FAIRMONT — Representatives of Kinship of Martin County provided an update to county commissioners this week.

Director Katy Gonzalez, along with Jen Kahler and Sarah Caballero, discussed the status of the program, and shared concerns about children who end up on the program’s waiting list. Because the wait can last for about a year, the organization is looking to try group mentoring programs that children can get involved with immediately.

“Our program right now has 53 matches in it,” Gonzalez began. “We did lose 10 different matches this summer because two graduated and a bunch of families moved out of the county. Thirty-two percent of our matches currently are serving mentees outside of Fairmont.”

Kahler noted that child participation is high, so there is a growing need for more mentors.

“The other group of kids that we serve is the kids on our waiting list,” she said. “Those are the ones that are interviewed into the program but not currently matched with their own mentor. We have 35 kids on our waiting list right now and another five that will be coming very quickly.

“We’re at the point now where our waiting list is nearly the size of our program. That’s difficult for us, but it’s also difficult for the parents who want their kids to be matched with a mentor.

To address the situation, Kahler said Kinship has been discussing the idea of small group mentoring.

“That’s not anything that Kinship has done before and, to our knowledge, not anything that Kinship as a whole has ever tried before,” she said.

“What we want to look at doing would fall under two different categories. One is that when kids come into the program, at some point fairly soon after they’re interviewed, they would be placed into a group that would work with them over the course of their first year in the program. Each month, they would meet, and some of it would cover activities they could do as a group, some of it would cover social and emotional skills and different things like that. We want to address that need immediately, rather than several months down the road.

“The second thing is that we know sometimes the older teenagers, ages 14 and up, don’t do as well in a one on one setting because they’re very specialized themselves already. They have particular wants and needs more than a younger child would and have harder time forming a relationship with an adult.

“So we’re looking at the possibility that, if the child prefers, they would just be able to start in a group mentor setting. Each of the time frames for both of those would be about nine months to a year, and then they could re-evaluate after that.

“We’ve actually been talking within the last couple of weeks about the idea of partnering with different businesses and organizations and things like that in Fairmont to help us with those monthly gatherings. Then they could be exposed to a lot of the things that are available for them.”

Gonzalez said any group mentoring program will not take the place of one-on-one mentoring already in place. She said the goal would be to pilot two such groups beginning in January.

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