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Mentoring Programs Benefit a Childs Identity and Mental Health


Every year, millions of children are taken by child protective agencies after being a
victim of child abuse. In most cases; the abused child would be removed from their unsafe home
and placed into foster care. However, the damaging effects of abuse negatively impact the child
indefinitely. Abused children need assistance, helping combat their innermost thoughts and
emotions. Mentoring programs prove to be the most effective way to help children who suffer
from these travesties. Therapeutic mentoring programs have been in effect since 1992, directed
by Wesley Chip Rich with the YMCA of San Francisco. Presumably, The Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention provided funding in 2009 which allowed them to grow into a
national mentoring program and expand to additional associations throughout the country. In
2013 the YMCA partnered with Y USA and received funding to expand to 38 additional states
(Chip). The program was designed to match mentors with youth, ages 6-17, who suffer from
abuse or mental health needs. A mentor's main responsibility is to provide encouragement to
their mentee, helping them realize their own self-worth. Mentoring programs benefit a child's
identity and health by making them feel accepted instead of unwanted or worthless.
Mentors from any organization need to understand the different types of abuse and the
long lasting impacts they have on children. To begin with, physical abuse is the most prevalent
form of child abuse in the United States (OMeara). Physical abuse is easily defined as any
physical act or threat meant to harm another human (Tracy). Children who undergo physical
abuse can be seen with marks from the abuser however, visible bruises do not have to be
prevalent in order for it to be marked as abuse. The childs mental and physical health depends
on the severity of the abuse. For example, a less severe case would be if a child was pinched by

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another person as opposed to someone being pushed down the stairs. Both cases count as
physical abuse but one is creating more harm on a victim than the other (Tracy). More examples
of physical abuse include punching, hair-pulling, and kicking. In basic terminology physical
abuse is any action that leaves behind a mark on a victim or is putting physical harm on an
individual.
Additionally, sexual abuse known as rape is defined as the unwanted sexual activity
inflicted on a victim. Sexual abuse can vary; it can simply be an unwanted touch or more serious
like intercourse with one another (Tracy). An example is taking advantage of a childs
vulnerability by performing sexual activities in front of them or with them. A common
misconception of sexual offenders is oftentimes they are thought to be unknown to the victim
however the truth is that the sexual offender happens to be a family member or someone the
victim is familiar with. The victims relatives should pay close attention if the victim becomes
anxious while at a relative's house (Tracy). Sexual abuse is unacceptable especially knowing the
truth that almost three out of four rapes were committed by someone the victim knew well.
Emotional abuse, otherwise known as psychological abuse, is by far the worst type of
maltreatment. The impact psychological abuse leaves on a child lasts forever and is hard to
recognize in an individual. Psychological abuse is defined as any language spoken to children
which negatively impacts them (Tracy). Often times parents are the main cause of psychological
abuse within the childs adolescence. For instance, parents who repeatedly favor one child versus
another, making the other child feel neglected while the other loved. Furthermore, verbal abuse
is a form of psychological abuse and is classified as an abuser who uses words and body
language with the intent to hurt another person (Mazarin). Once again, the abuse mainly strives

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from parents of the child but can also come from people in the community, children at school,
and even from online communication. Psychological abuse includes yelling, shaming, threats,
humiliation, name-calling, and unreasonable criticisms. This type of abuse requires the most
attention by mentors due to the long lasting impact on children.
Psychological abuse, consists of multiple forms which are hard to identify. The first form
is indifferent which is the childs needs or temperament, which may be different from their
siblings. An example would be with a parent or guardian who only acknowledges the presence of
one individual, and disregards the other. Humiliation is another form of abuse that deals with a
failed task or misunderstood instructions that a child faces. This can happen in a classroom
setting where a student misunderstands instructions. In response the teacher calls them out for
their mistake degrading the childs sense of confidence and causing psychic damage (LaBier).
Denigration, another form of abuse, includes the negative description of something children
achieve or express interest in. Including when a child performs an activity and is not recognized
for his/her accomplishments or someone takes credit for something they did. Moreover, children
who strive to meet parental expectations are commonly accompanied by negative comparisons of
the child to others, known as unrelenting pressure. Finally, neglect is the most common form of
psychological abuse exhibiting the failing to provide essential emotional support or recognition
of the childs desires (LaBier). Neglect can often times go side by side with indifferent abuse. If
a guardian does not fully comprehend how to help the child compared to others than many times
they are neglected and uncared for. Every form of psychological abuse creates an impact that
carries into adulthood through the victims own subconscious.

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Mentoring programs were established to help provide support to those individuals who
endured any or all types of abuse. The Reach and Rise program at the YMCA has been around
for decades providing the encouragement children need in order to be successful later on.
However, becoming a mentor requires a heavy commitment to the program as well as the
mentee. Background checks are looked at before a person is allowed to enroll in mentoring
programs. In addition to, a mentor has a responsibility to meet with their mentee for a minimum
of twelve months. The time spent together is to develop a relationship between one another and
communicate on a professional level unless instructed otherwise. Furthermore, a mentor has to
abide by all the rules and regulations set out before them. Including receiving permission to take
their mentee out on a trip (Chip). There are many rules set forth by the program but the main
obligation of the mentor is to be properly trained in understanding the signs of abuse a child will
display during their sessions.
As stated earlier, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse damages a childs fundamental
identity. Abuse frequently creates disturbances that can lead to lifelong problems involving rage
and fear. Neglect and emotional damage is the worst form of abuse due to the fact that children
have a hard time expressing how they are feeling amongst others. A childs identity is damaged
through their own perspective of themselves, the world around them, and life in general.
Between the abuses, a variety of potential effects including anxiety, self-injury, depression, and
phobias can be displayed in which a mentor should be aware of. A mentor is present to provide
comfort and motivation to their mentee and fully recognize the effects of abuse and how to help
their mentee out.

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Mentors have an enormous responsibility to protect and guide their mentees through their
problems. One common misconception of mentoring programs is that mentors are not trained
therapists. If a mentee is displaying signs of trauma it is the mentor's responsibility to find an
appropriate advocate that will arrange for a response to your mentees needs. Instead a mentor
can serve as an anchor and a refuge for your traumatized mentee. Trauma of any kind can often
times leave the mentee feeling alone and isolated. Therefore, when attending mentor programs
the mentee benefits enormously from a mentors attention and presence because they begin to
feel accepted and loved. The mentors job during the program is to convince their mentee that
they deserve to be cared for. This sense of worthiness is created by developing a trusting
relationship with their mentee and help them realize their fullest potential (Council on
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse). To explain, in a typical mentor program, children are paired with a
trained individual in order to cultivate a relationship that will spark a change in the mentee.
Mentoring programs are found to be rewarding in benefitting their mentee and caring for them
unlike their past circumstances, however some still believe these programs are not well created
and need more adjustments.
Some people may argue that mentoring programs are corrupt due to old training methods
that are outdated for 21st century problems. Research has discovered that a mentor helps
children overcome their past experiences through rebuilding their self-esteem and social skills,
instead of building up academic integrity (Rodriguez-Planas). Mentoring programs need to revise
the way they train individuals to become mentors to young children and help work to build their
mental health. To continue, training needs to be exclusive and in depth as a mentor handles very
tough situations that one would have to be prepared for at any given time. In addition, not

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everyone is set out to be a mentor, proper background checks and training is needed before a
person can provide comfort for children. Moreover, age limits are restricted for a reason. Young
children can not be a mentor for their peers because they do not have the sufficient training to
help another child who has experienced any form of abuse. Studies conducted between 700
mentoring programs have discovered that 36% of volunteers received less than 2 hours of
training and 22% received none at all (Rodriguez-Planas). People argue that mentoring
programs do not help children who have suffered abuse previously because of the inappropriate
training and underrated qualifications.
Although, some critics believe that mentoring training is corrupt in programs across the
country this is often times false. Mentoring programs have many rules and regulations to abide
by in order to ensure that their mentee is provided with the appropriate care needed in the
recovery process. There are multiple community-based afterschool programs where youth can
express themselves and receive guidance in engaging in social and community services
(Rodriguez-Planas). Therefore, mentors help to rebuild and construct a mentees social skills. In
addition to, mentoring programs seek to build strong positive relationships between at-risk youth
and mentors. This helps mentees develop self-esteem, motivation, tenacity, trustworthiness,
perseverance and resiliency, among other noncognitive skills. Additionally, this helps to reduce
personal, family, and social barriers that prevent young people from valuing school and
succeeding academically (Rodriguez-Planas). Statistically, children who have a mentor tend to
improve in school than children who are left on their own. This is the case because children with
parents constantly have someone on their back about doing well in school which now becomes

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the roll of the mentor. Overall, children who have a mentor or support group improve in every
aspect of their young life.
Mentoring affects children in a positive way and some statistics to support this claim are
provided in Figure 1. The Mentoring Effect explains how children who are encouraged by a
mentor improve in by graduating from high school, volunteer in the community, and participate
in extracurricular activities. For more statistics on how mentoring affects children in a positive
way refer to Figure 1 below.

Fig 1: "Research Studies." Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, BBBS
WNC, 2014, www.bbbswnc.org/research-studies/.

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Children who are inspired by a mentor or a support group tend to improve their social
skills as well as their academic integrity unlike popular belief. Numerous children suffer many
different variations of abuse including physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional/psychological.
Child abuse has and will remain a problem in the United States if no action is put forth to stop
the careless actions of others. It is our responsibility as a society to train mentors who can help
these children who experienced torture combat their problems and challenges by being a
supporter for them. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds and as a society and a
community we need to change this disturbing statistic by making sure children are in the
appropriate care (Rodriguez-Planas). We also need to make sure children are taken care of after
the fact through mentoring programs and removing children from their current situation and
placing them into a better facility or home. Overall, mentoring programs are beneficial to a child
who has suffered a form of abuse because it gives them the opportunity to open up in a closed
environment and have the knowledge that a person cares for them and encourages them to
improve throughout the program.