Growing need for youth mentors amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 5:20 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 06:55:03-05

(WXYZ) — A local service organization says the need for foster youth mentors is growing. Last month was National Mentoring Month, and foster care advocates say mentors can make all the difference in a youth's life, and could mean a potentially lifelong friendship.

"As much as I'm giving to her, I feel like she's enriched my life in so many ways," Krista Jahnke, a foster youth mentor, said.

Jahnke says Child Safe Michigan introduced her to a young lady we'll call Lisa about 4 1/2 years ago. Lisa was 10 at the time and in foster care.

Jahnke said the motivation to become a foster youth mentor came after hearing a panel of other young women who were aging out of the foster care system.

"They were talking about how difficult it is to just navigate that stage of life, early adulthood when they're coming from situations where they don't have a big family support network, and how few resources there are for them," Jahnke said. "I was really moved by their stories and thought this was something that I would, I could find time in my schedule to be a part of the solution for that."

So, once or twice a month, Jahnke and Lisa connect.

"We go do fun things around town together. I've just really enjoyed getting to know her and enjoy, just find it meaningful that I can be a consistent, positive adult presence in her life," she added.

Khadija Walker-Fobbs, the chief strategy officer for The Judson Center, said there's a revolving need for mentors. The signup process to get matched, after a background check, is simple. She said a little guidance and a listening ear can go a long way.

"Having that helps your mental health. We know that statistics show us that mentees are less likely to run into drug addiction and substance abuse issues. We know that they report feeling happier and healthier," Walker-Fobbs said.

"You're really going to make a difference in someone's life. You're going to get to see them grow and become the person who they're going to be," Jahnke addd.

Walker-Fobbs said there's a particular need for male mentors in the Wayne County area, and a need for foster parents.