Now that the election is over and the nation has some political clarity for the next few years, I found myself wondering about what this might mean in terms of federal-level support for mentoring. With stability in the White House and some new faces in Congress, there may be an opportunity to push some new ideas about supporting the work of our field. But that begs the question: What are our ideas?
Obviously, MENTOR has a robust legislative agenda that I’m sure they are already hard at work promoting. But I’m curious about your individual ideas. What would you ask for in terms of support for mentoring from the new administration and Congress? A few quick ideas of my own just to get the ball rolling:
- Making it easier to conduct national background checks. The process for doing these checks varies from state to state and creates a lot of unnecessary work for mentoring programs. Whether it’s a revival of SafetyNet or something else, anything that can be done at the federal level to ease this burden would be very welcome and would make programs much safer.
- Funding new mentoring research. OJJDP has been doing an excellent job of funding mentoring research over the last few years, but more is needed. We need to understand what makes great mentors, how to best use mentors to address specific needs, and how we can motivate more adults to get involved in mentoring a child. Fresh research in these areas would be really valuable for our field.
- Strategies to build public-private investments in mentoring. Initiatives like the Social Innovation Fund are charting new territory for combining public and private dollars to tackle economic and social problems. I’d love to see something similar focused exclusively on youth mentoring, where a modest federal investment could be multiplied through partnerships with philanthropies and corporations. This might bring some needed stability to our field and actually allow us to truly take mentoring “to scale.”
So what is your “wish list” of federal support? What could the President and Congress do that would make a difference? And what role do you think the federal government should play in supporting youth mentoring?
I look forward to hearing your (non-partisan) ideas in the comments below!