Studies show that children are spending more and more time alone and unsupervised when not in school. More times than not, this open time is not spent as constructively as it could be. Often these children will utilize these opportunities to be with their peers or even negative adult role models. In today’s society, we have households with both parents working, increased divorce rates, and a rise in never married parents. These trends do not necessarily suggest that parents are doing a bad job of raising their children, but rather that they need help.
The future of any community depends on their youth. It depends on whether households are raising children to be responsible and accountable. It relies on whether children become self confidence and develop the skills they need to succeed in life. We already know what happens when children grow into adults without such qualities. Employers complain about the poor pool of prospective employees. Undesirable characteristics are transferred to the next generation and so on. The question becomes how do we turn such trends around?
By assisting those households who need outside assistance in helping the child develop into a productive member of the community. Mentoring is a starting point that has proven successful over the years.
Anyone who cares about children and has the desire to make a difference is a good candidate for the Defiance County Mentoring Program. Mentors are simply another adult in a child’s life. They are a special friend who will listen to and coach a child. At no time does a mentor act as or represent the role of the parent(s). In fact, all mentors are encouraged to make contact with the mentee’s parent/guardian to introduce themselves, and to get some insight as to what the parent may be hoping to achieve for the child through this special friendship. Children who have parents who recognize they cannot meet all the needs of their child(ren) are fortunate, for the parent is able to say I know another adult role model would benefit my child(ren) -- I need help filling a void in his/her life.
Mentors are not counselors, babysitters, or decision makers for the mentee. Mentors do not impose their own values on the mentee, but do help them learn how to develop the skills to target goals, and then how to achieve those goals. Each volunteer receives four hours of training that takes place over a two day period. Classes are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening to accommodate the volunteers schedule. Mentors are provided with various tools and resources to support their work with a child.
The Defiance County Mentoring Program only asks the volunteer to commit to a maximum of one hour a week during the school year. All meetings take place during the school day on school grounds. Mentors can volunteer in the Ayersville, Defiance, Fairview, Hicksville and Tinora school districts. Each district has a real need for more mentors. New volunteers cannot be trained fast enough to meet the need. More disturbing is that we cannot find enough adults to come forward and commit to that one hour a week. For each day that goes by that these children go without the additional positive adult role model, means another day that these children continue to follow the same path because they do not know alternative routes exist. Eventually, these children will reach adulthood following the same path, in turn teaching their children the same patterns.
Anyone interested in working with a child can contact Ashley Sowder, program coordinator, at 419-782-0226. The commitment is small, but the rewards are endless.