Mentors for children who are at-risk and young adults
Auburn, Calif.- Two years ago, 17-year-old Nicole had no drive in her life.
“I was really depressed, but my mom was good at finding resources for me,” Nicole says. “She found a Child Advocates flyer and asked me if I wanted an A2Y Mentor.”
The Adult-to-Youth (A2Y) Mentor program through Child Advocates of Placer County provides mentors for children who are at-risk of entering the juvenile justice or child welfare systems and young adults who, as former foster youth, are transitioning into adulthood without family support. A2Y Mentors visit with the youth weekly, helping the youth set goals and outline a plan to achieve these goals, both short and long term.
“All the sudden, Judi (her A2Y Mentor) came one day when I was in my room, sick I think, and my mom brought her in like ‘Surprise!’,” Nicole says. “It was kind of awkward at first but Judi made me feel comfortable.” Though Judith Moore has volunteered throughout her life for different programs, her relationship with Nicole is Judi’s first Mentor case with Child Advocates of Placer County.
“I have a desire to make a connection with youth that could use a good role model,” Judi says. “You need to give a youth space so that the bond between you is all in their time and agenda, and I knew that going in.” On their first meeting, Judi and Nicole went to Taco Bell and just spent time getting to know each other.
“I would probably say our third meeting was when I really started to tell her a lot about myself,” Nicole says. They both remember a fairly natural connection right from the start.
“We are much more comfortable and open now, but she was pretty open from the beginning,” Judi says. “I never had to pry and she always wanted to share. Things needed to progress naturally and she needed to figure everything out. She made all her own decisions, I just helped nudge.” Judi and Nicole are both dog lovers and really bonded over going to the dog park together.
“It’s funny because her dog is a lot smaller than mine, so when they run through the grass he gets all dirty,” Nicole says with a smile. Along with their doggie play dates, the pair has also enjoyed various activities such as Kings Games, the Air Force museum, CASA events and going out to eat.
“We are very similar, and even have some of the same kind of problems,” Nicole says. “Other people say what I should do, but she has actually been through it and gives advice as more of a possibility or option to choose.”
Judi hasn’t been the only one doing the teaching though. Nicole tried to teach Judi how to knit.
“It didn’t go very well and there was almost a fight in Starbucks over it,” Judi says and laughs. “I decided to just crochet instead.” Judi and Nicole attend quarterly meetings at Unity Care with several other individuals to discuss Nicole’s future plans and the kind of support she needs during that process.
“The one we had last month, I really saw Nicole’s growth,” Judi says. “When we first started spending time together she just wanted to go for a walk and not set any goals. But now she develops her own goals at team meetings, she expresses herself and her needs verbally, and actually drove that meeting!”
Some of the goals Nicole wanted to achieve were obtaining her driver’s license, not falling into a pattern of depression again, eating and cooking healthier, making solid friends that stick around, becoming more involved in things in general, and getting a job. Her list is beginning to get smaller as she achieves her goals and Judi supports her.
“Now we do activities together that are more productive because I know what I want,” Nicole says. “I used to say, ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t care,’ but now I have goals.” Nicole is currently studying Psychology at Sierra College. She plans to get into Industrial and Organizational Psychology and eventually transfer to UC Irvine.
“What really changed from when I first met her was that she is self-dependent now,” Judi says. “For me, Nicole was a perfect fit. She has a good head on her shoulders and there is no drama, drugs or constant boy problems.”
Now, two years later, Judi is currently still Nicole’s A2Y Mentor.
“The best part of being Nicole’s mentor is being a part of her development, growth and watching her look at life and navigate it,” Judi says. “I just give her a steering point when she needs it. “Nicole, now 19-years-old, has a completely different outlook on life.
“I feel like I’m lucky,” Nicole says. “Judi’s actual job is to help people get jobs. She is so ‘put together’ and she helps me with that. I think Child Advocates is really good at finding someone who matches what you need.” The Child Advocates staff take their time when going through the matching and training process both, so that as many volunteers and mentees as possible have a positive experience like this one.
“Child Advocates offers the best training I have ever been through,” Judi says. “Their support is great, and everything in training is right on. Any resource I have needed, they’ve been there.” Judi and Nicole are the perfect match, there is no doubt about it.
“She’s stuck with me,” Nicole says with a smile.
If you would like to become a Mentor, or learn more about the other programs offered by Child Advocates of Placer County please contact us at: casaplacer.org or (530) 887-1006.