After a huge amount of success working with children in care, our Friendship Works service is drawing on 40 years’ experience of delivering long term mentoring, to support young adults leaving the care system.
Many of the care leavers we work with were born into families where there was extreme domestic violence or excessive drug and alcohol use. At some point in their childhood, their family situations became too dangerous, and they were removed from their home and taken into care. From that point forward, their lives have been a series of transitions and changes, as they coped with regularly being moved from one care home to another, hardly having any chance to build lasting, positive relationships with other children, or with the adults in their lives.
When they reach 18, they must leave the care system, and face all the responsibilities, decisions and challenges of adult life, without the support of a loving family network that most young adults would take for granted.
At Friendship Works we strongly believe that our long term, friendship-based model of mentoring can make a huge difference to a young person facing the crucial transition into adulthood alone.
Over the next three years, we will match 50 care leavers with volunteer mentors who will meet up with them three times month, for a minimum of two years. With four mentoring friendships already established, and a further two just about to start, we are well on the way to achieving our target of ten in the first year.
“When I first met Scott I was bit scared and didn’t know what to except … After a while I realised he was a cool guy”
There are some very clear early successes. The young adults we have matched with a mentor so far all have very different needs and life circumstances. However, all of their mentoring friendships are off to a great start, with the young people using the time with their mentors to discover and explore mutual interests, laying the foundations for meaningful and genuine friendships to grow over the next couple of years.
The support offered by our mentors so far has included preparation for job interviews, experiencing new things around London including sightseeing and eating out at new places, taking part in sports, and listening, without passing judgement, to their mentees talk about some of the challenges in their lives.
Paul* has been matched with his mentor Scott* for nearly three months now. He talked to me about his first meeting with Scott, and how their friendship has developed since then.
“When I first met Scott I was bit scared and didn’t know what to except … After a while I realised he was a cool guy. He always listens to me and asks how I’m doing and what I want to do. I already feel more confident since meeting Scott. I have been to places I’d never been before. In the past I didn’t like travelling on tubes or going to busy places but with him, I’ve been able to do it. Scott is also helping me to find a job so it’s fun but we do the serious bit as well.”
Find out more about volunteering as a mentor here. We welcome volunteers from all backgrounds and life experiences but, we would be particularly interested in hearing from male volunteers, right now.
*Names have been changed