Volunteer mentoring service

Information about the volunteer youth mentoring service at the Department of Communities.

A mentor is a responsible adult volunteer who befriends and supports a child or young person who is in the care of the Department of Communities. These children and young people are aged between 9 and 17 years and may be living in foster care, family care, or residential group homes. Because they have experienced a difficult start in life, they need to form a positive stable relationship with a grounded adult, who will enjoy spending time with them, and participating in activities that will help them to develop life skills.

Most children and young people come into the care of the Department due to abuse or chronic neglect, and others because have no responsible adult to care for them. They have all had experiences that most children and young people from loving homes have not been exposed to and are in need a supportive adult in their life - someone to guide them and support them to create a positive vision for their future.

Frequently asked questions

Could I be a volunteer mentor?

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Volunteer mentors are everyday people with good interpersonal skills who like to help others, especially children and young people. You can be male or female, studying, working full or part-time, or retired; you just need to be committed and willing to change the life of a young person. You would need to be able to commit to a minimum of 12 months, visiting a young person every two weeks and be prepared to attend training and learn new skills.

We encourage Aboriginal mentors, as we try to support young people to connect with their culture.

We also require more male mentors to support our young men, particularly those who live with female relatives, who will benefit from a positive male role model.

Aboriginal children make up a significant proportion of children in care. Wherever possible, our Department tries to keep Aboriginal children within their families and local communities to help maintain their identity and connection to their culture. When this is not possible, we need to place children with families who are not of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. We are always looking for more Aboriginal people who would be interested in becoming a volunteer mentor to a young person in care, particularly those who don’t have many opportunities to connect with their culture. We have Aboriginal staff who are available to talk to you further about this. 

How can I get involved?

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How much time does a volunteer mentor need to commit?

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We ask people interested in becoming a volunteer mentor for a minimum commitment of 12 months, though please note that the overall aim of mentoring with young people in care is to provide opportunity for long term successful relationships that potentially span years. This is so the mentor and the young person have an opportunity to build a stable and successful relationship that achieves positive sustainable outcomes for the young person.

If you think that there is a likelihood of your circumstances changing and that you may only be able to commit for a short time, becoming a mentor through this program may not be the role for you.

Mentoring session times are flexible, usually from 2 to 5 hours and are made in arrangement with the young person and their carer.

How often does the volunteer mentor visit the young person?

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To initialise the match, four weekly sessions are engaged in with the young person, then we ask that regular fortnightly sessions are maintained as best as possible. Some mentors have had availability to maintain some weekly contact for periods of time, this is made in arrangement with the program coordinator, young person and carer.

For those mentors who have been engaged for more than 12 months, a decision to decrease contact would be made in collaboration with the mentor, young person and mentor program coordinator on a case by case basis.

Does the volunteer mentor need to pay anything?

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The Department will refund the expenses that you and the young person incur during visits within a pre-agreed amount. Typically, expenses cover vehicle mileage, food, beverages and planned activities. If you're unsure whether something is included in allowable expenses, contact the mentor program coordinator beforehand and ask. All receipts for expenses must be kept and provided when submitting an expenses claim.

How far does the volunteer mentor need to travel?

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Most of our mentoring matches have been established with a 15 km tolerance for travel. When we meet with you for the first time, we will discuss your preferences with regard to travel distances. It is important to be aware, however, that young people in care sometimes move placements and there would be an expectation that you to continue visiting them if this happens. Before applying to become a volunteer mentor you will need to consider whether or not you would be prepared to travel further if this was to occur.

What qualification and experience does a volunteer mentor need?

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You don’t need any formal qualifications to be a volunteer mentor and training is provided before you are matched with a young person. However, if you have relevant qualifications or experience this will be an advantage.

What does screening mean?

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Departmental checks on potential volunteer mentors are thorough. We will check police records and the child protection databases to see if there are any concerns. If you suspect that there are any issues that may arise when these checks are carried out, it’s best that you speak to the mentor program coordinator and make them aware of these in advance.

Does the volunteer mentor get to choose the young person he/she mentors?

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The mentor can have input into the child or young person they are matched with, though the final decision regarding matches is made by the mentor program coordinator. When a possible match is identified we will contact you and give you some non-identifying details about the young person.  This is then your opportunity to discuss if there are any reasons why you think the match would not work for you or any concerns you may have.

Page reviewed 4 October 2021