Standards for child and youth development programs

2020 Edition

Supplement for OST Programming: Mentoring (CYD-OST-MENT) 1: Programming and Activities: Mentoring

Programs provide the screening, training, monitoring, and support needed to facilitate successful mentoring relationships.
2020 Edition




Children and youth who participate in Mentoring experience supportive, positive relationships that contribute to the achievement of personal, social, and educational growth. 
Related Standards:
The program’s practices fully meet the standard, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • A description of the mentoring initiative
  • Procedures for orientation and training (CYD-OST-MENT 1.04, 1.05)
  • Table of contents of orientation and training curricula (for mentors)
  • Sample consent forms
  • Procedures for monitoring and supporting matches (CYD-OST-MENT 1.08, 1.09, 1.11)
  • Daily schedules for past month
  • Orientation and training curricula (for mentors)
  • Materials provided to children, youth, and families explaining the mentoring initiative
  • Qualifications of personnel who manage the mentoring initiative
  • Logic model (or equivalent framework)
  • Interview:
    1. Program Administrator
    2. Site Director
    3. Program Personnel
    4. Mentors
    5. Children, youth, and families
  • Observe program activities
  • Review files of children and youth
  • Review files of mentors


The mentoring initiative is designed to:
  1. help children and youth build strong, supportive relationships with positive role models; and
  2. promote the growth, development, and empowerment of children and youth.
Although some mentors adopt authoritative roles and attempt to reform individuals with whom they are matched, research examining mentoring relationships suggests it may be more effective to develop supportive, respectful, and trust-based friendships with mentees.

Fundamental Practice


The mentor screening process is completed before a prospective mentor serves children and youth in any capacity, and includes:
  1. a written application;
  2. a face-to-face interview; and
  3. reference checks, including both personal and professional references, when possible.


A program’s procedures should clearly detail what qualities and qualifications it is seeking in its mentors and what characteristics would disqualify a prospective mentor.  
Note:  As addressed in CYD-HR 10.02, the program should also conduct fingerprint-based state and federal criminal history record checks, child abuse and neglect registry checks, and sex offender registry checks.  If mentors have opportunities to transport mentees the program should also review their driving records, as referenced in CYD-OST 12.10.


In order to determine a prospective mentor’s suitability, the mentor screening process includes an assessment of:
  1. whether the prospective mentor’s personal qualities will facilitate the development of a trust-based relationship centered on the mentee; and
  2. whether the prospective mentor has the time and availability needed to establish and maintain a strong mentoring relationship.
Related Standards:


 The program should establish clear expectations regarding: (1) how frequently mentors and mentees should meet; and (2) the minimum length of time mentors need to commit to the program.  Although expectations can vary based on program type, many programs ask mentors to agree in writing to meet with mentees at least one hour per week, or for several hours once or twice a month, for at least a year (i.e. school or calendar year, depending on program type and schedule).
 Literature emphasizes that it may be difficult to develop a relationship if a pair does not meet regularly, and some research suggests that mentoring relationships may be more effective if they last at least a year. 


Mentors receive orientation and training that address:
  1. the philosophy of both the program overall and its mentoring component;
  2. the responsibilities of the mentor to the program and the mentee;
  3. the responsibilities of the program to the mentor;
  4. relationship development, including the importance of building trust;
  5. establishing appropriate boundaries and setting limits;
  6. child and youth development, including any special strengths and needs of the population served;
  7. diversity and cultural awareness; and
  8. realistic expectations for the relationship.
Related Standards:


  The program should provide at least two hours of in-person, pre-match training.
 Because the tone of a relationship can be set quickly, literature emphasizes the importance of ensuring that some training is provided prior to the first match meeting.  


Children and youth, and their families, are helped to understand:
  1. the purpose of the mentoring relationship;
  2. the role of a mentor; and
  3. rules and expectations for participation.
Related Standards:
Note: Please note that this information may be conveyed within the context of the initial program orientation, as addressed in CYD-OST 1.03.


The program considers the characteristics of mentors and mentees when making matches.


Characteristics that may be relevant to consider when making matches include language spoken, interests, age, gender identity and expression, background, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual identity, sexual orientation, special needs, personality and temperament, strengths, and/or the expressed preferences of the mentor, mentee, and the mentee’s parent or guardian. Logistical issues, such as availability to meet at the same time, should also be considered.

Fundamental Practice


Mentors, mentees, and mentees’ parents or legal guardians provide written, informed consent to:
  1. the proposed match; and
  2. the rules and requirements of the mentoring initiative.


In an effort to facilitate the development of a successful mentoring relationship, the program:
  1. arranges, and ensures personnel are available during, the initial match meeting; and
  2. ensures that mentoring meetings are frequent enough, and continue long enough, to meet the objectives of the relationship.


 Given that most programs implementing this core concept will run an on-site mentoring program, personnel will of course be present during the initial match meeting.  However, even programs operating off-site mentoring programs should ensure that personnel are present for the initial match meeting.  Some programs may also involve the parents or guardians of children and youth in the initial match meeting.  

As referenced in CYD-OST-MENT 1.03, it is often recommended that mentors and mentees meet at least four hours per month, for at least a year.
Note: See the Research Note to CYD-OST-MENT 1.03.

Fundamental Practice


Personnel monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of the match by checking in with mentors, mentees, and mentees’ parents or legal guardians:
  1. bi-weekly, during the first month of mentoring; and
  2. once a month, thereafter.
Related Standards:


Personnel should use these check-ins to learn about the activities that occurred during match meetings, the quality of the mentoring relationship, and the impact of the mentoring relationship on both the mentee and mentor, as well as to make sure that the mentoring relationship does not present any safety issues.  More frequent monitoring may be necessary if a match is considered to be in jeopardy of premature closing.  Programs that have trouble obtaining input from parents or legal guardians may seek input from other involved adults, such as teachers or other school-day personnel.


The program maintains a record of the date, duration, and activities completed at each mentoring meeting.
Related Standards:


  1. regularly assess matches to determine if they should be continued or closed; and
  2. provide ongoing support and assistance to facilitate relationship development, as needed.
Related Standards:


Mentors should be provided with ongoing support and assistance designed to help them address challenges that may arise in the mentoring relationship.  For example, in addition to regular feedback from personnel, mentors might benefit from access to resources such as specialized publications, experienced mentors, or additional training opportunities. 
Note: Programs should also be sure to recognize the value of the mentor’s efforts, as addressed in CYD-HR 10.07.


When it is necessary to close a match, personnel:
  1. ensure that the relationship ends in a planned, constructive manner;
  2. meet with mentors to discuss the reasons for, and their feelings about, the closure of the match;
  3. meet with mentees and their families to discuss the reasons for, and their feelings about, the closure of the match;
  4. review rules regarding post-closure contact with all parties, including mentors, mentees, and the families of mentees; and
  5. offer the possibility of re-matching, as appropriate.


 It may be necessary to close a match for a variety of reasons including, for example, if the mentor or mentee relocates, if the match is determined to be unsuitable or inappropriate, or if the match is designed to end at a specific time, such as when the school year ends.  

Please note that a program’s closure procedures should also address situations where one party (i.e. the mentor, mentee, or family of the mentee) is unwilling or unable to engage in the closure process.  While COA recognizes that it may be hard for some programs to engage family members, it will be especially important to involve the mentee’s family if the match is determined to be unsuitable or inappropriate, as opposed to when a match is designed to end at a specific time (e.g., at the end of the school year).


Personnel who manage the mentoring initiative have the competencies needed to:
  1. recruit mentors;
  2. screen, select, train, support, and supervise mentors;
  3. match children and youth with mentors; and
  4. collaborate effectively with mentees and their parents or legal guardians.


Competency can be demonstrated through a combination of education, training, and experience.