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September/October 2001Vol. 2, No. 5Mentoring Program Targets Foster Care Children

Experts agree that consistent, caring adult mentors can make a difference in the lives of "at risk" children. Mentoring USA (MUSA), provides structured one-to-one mentoring to this population, which includes foster care children.

According to MUSA's website, carefully structured mentoring programs have the following benefits:

  • School attendance will improve.
  • School drop-out rates will decline.
  • Child's self-esteem and self-confidence will improve.
  • Child's ability to resolve conflicts will improve and aggressive behavior will decline.
  • Child will develop new aspirations, skills, and interests.
  • Child's sense of community and connectedness will increase.
  • Child is less likely to be a victim or perpetrator of a crime or to be involved in teen pregnancy or substance abuse.

Originally founded in 1987 by New York's former First Lady, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, MUSA expanded from a government-sponsored New York State mentoring program, which matched children in need with volunteer mentors, to a non-profit corporation operating in more than 60 locations in New York City. MUSA also operates programs in Newark, New Jersey; Boston; and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. MUSA's materials are used in mentoring programs throughout New York State and the U.S.

In 2000, a new initiative to provide mentors to children in foster care was launched. With funding from the United Way of New York City and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the program targets youth ages 10 through 18. The program runs in every borough of New York City except Staten Island, which is slated to begin in the Fall of 2001. To date, MUSA's Foster Care Initiative has matched 75 mentors and youth. "The reactions from both mentors and mentees have been positive," said Jessica Fabian, co-director of the Foster Care Initiative. "One obstacle has been to identify children for the program and recruiting male mentors."

The program's mentors are recruited from a variety of sources, such as police departments, court personnel, fraternal organizations, educational institutions, community boards, and interest groups. After receiving special training, mentors commit to a minimum of 4 hours each month for at least one full academic year at one of MUSA's foster care sites, which currently include 10 foster care agencies and one public school. They work with foster youth on life skills development that prepares them for independent living, such as education and career planning, job searching, and basic finances.

"I have learned so much from my mentor," said one mentee. "She doesn't look at me like a kid in need because I'm in foster care, but as a struggling teen, with issues lots of kids go through. She has shown me that with hard work you can accomplish even the hardest things."

Contact information:

Jessica Fabian, CSW
Co-Director of Foster Care Initiative
Phone: 212-253-1194 ext. 450

Nakeisha Vernon, MSW
Co-Director of Foster Care Initiative
Phone: 212-253-1194 ext. 462

Mentoring USA
113 E. 13th St.
New York, NY 10003

Related Items

Read President's Bush's remarks about a new 5-year-campaign led by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with the cooperation of 4 leading service organizations—Kiwanis, Lions, Optimist, and Rotary—to recruit 1 million mentors for at-risk children (

Save the Children's "Do Good: Mentor a Child" public service advertising campaign, co-sponsored by the Ad Council, features a toll-free hotline (1-877-BE-A-MENTOR), which connects interested volunteers with more than 1,700 organizations registered with the National Mentoring Database. For more information, visit: