Abstract or article Excerpted From Child Youth Care Forum (2014) 43:705–727 DOI 10.1007/s10566-014-9261-2
Background Youth mentoring programs rely largely on volunteers, but youth facing significant risks may be poor candidates for volunteer-based interventions. Full-time ‘‘professional’’ mentors in highly structured programs may be better suited to partner effectively with such youth and their families, but few studies examine professional mentoring interventions. Because of mentoring’s inherent flexibility, mentors’ role conceptualizations can profoundly influence the nature of their work. Serving as a professional mentor may have important implications for how mentors conceptualize and perform their role.
Objective This qualitative study examined the role conceptions of professional mentors serving at-risk youth.
Methods Semi-structured interviews with mentors were transcribed, coded, and subjected to thematic analysis.
Results Mentors described the importance of ‘‘professionalism’’ in prioritizing mentoring, expending considerable effort, and performing difficult or unpleasant tasks. They reported that serving multiple children full-time enabled them to rapidly build expertise, that credibility and authority granted them because of their professional status facilitated their work across multiple key contexts, and that their expertise and long-term commitment facilitated the development of deep relationships. Mentors perceived their role as highly challenging but reported high self-efficacy. They described high multifaceted organizational support, a community for youth, and an individualized child focus.