Screening mentors, you may have to say no

The process and importance of screening mentors and having option to say no.

There are various standards that should be followed to have a quality mentoring program. According to Michigan State University Extension, mentor screening policies are included in quality standard practices. It is important for mentoring programs to have their screening policies and procedures clearly written and located at a centralized and assessable location. This policy should include a series of tasks that potential mentors are to complete before being considered for a program. They include a written application, a face-to-face interview, character reference checks, background checks including criminal history, driving record, sex offenders check, child perfective service clearance and possibly FBI checks. Adhering to these quality program standards around screening puts an organization in a better position to have a successful and safe mentoring program.

It is extremely important to select the right mentors for your program. A person who may be a good fit for one program may not be a good fit for another. The screening process not only weeds out unwanted mentors, but allows programs to get to know individuals to determine if they are right for the program. Finally, the proper screening process eliminates those that may be harmful to the program.

If total screening is not completed, then mentoring programs open themselves to severe risks. Risk can affect the safety of youth who are mentored. No program should accept a mentor that could potentially be unsafe for a youth or a negative influence. The program or supporting organization is responsible for the safety of the youth participants. If safety is compromised then liability becomes an issue.  

If a potential mentor displays behaviors or background checks that are questionable, then they may not be the best candidate. It is a privilege to become a mentor, not a right. Therefore, programs may have to say no or deny someone who is applying. It is better to turn down a mentor than give them a chance when you are unsure of their ability or character. You should never accept a potential mentor who you would not feel comfortable around your own child or close relative. Don’t be afraid to say no to a potential mentor. It helps to have a policy written that outlines how to handle a situation as such.

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