PROGRAMS THAT WORK: Star Mentoring Services, LLC
Justice Journal - The Newsletter of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance
Fall 2007 article
By ALISSON WOOD
During her years as a social worker, Fay Evans decided that there was a need for children's services that used a familial approach. So, five years ago, she founded STAR Mentoring Services in Hartford. Evans envisioned a community-based program focused on helping children with emotional and behavioral issues to work through their challenges and achieve greater success at home, at school, and in the community. Today, her organization employs 29 mentors who strive to give at-risk kids the attention they need but can't always find.
STAR Mentoring is currently serving 72 youths, primarily referred by the Department of Children and Families, but also accepts referrals through the Department of Corrections and other social service agencies. STAR mentoring youth range in age from 8 to 17 and live primarily in Hartford and 14 surrounding communities. Youth present with a wide array of learning, emotional or behavioral disabilities, and/or a background of neglect and are paired with a gender-specific and culturally-appropriate mentor. They are given their mentor's cell and home phone numbers and encouraged to use them anytime. Every mentor is hand-picked and managed by Evans, who searches for adults who are relatable, approachable and from the child's community, facilitating frequent contact.
All STAR mentors have a background in mental health, and many are currently working a second job or have educational credentials in the mental health field.
STAR mentors provide many different services to at-risk youth, which vary from daily activities to educational support. Young people are taught basic and necessary skills to help improve their lives, such as time and money management, conflict resolution, job search and interview skills, and self-advocacy. Mentors are actively involved in the adolescent's education, with a mandatory Library Day to provide time for scholastic concentration, as well as a meeting with the child's classroom teacher each week. The extra one-on-one attention STAR mentors provide helps children improve and flourish academically. STAR mentors also communicate with a child's therapist or counselor regularly to provide critical insight and background information.
Additionally, regular group activities, involving all of the children and mentors, are held to reward participation and build stronger relationships. Kids have attended NBA games, visited Mystic Seaport, the beach, New York City and enjoyed a girls-only overnight at a hotel with dinner and swimming. All the services provided share the goal of improving the lives of at-risk kids and guiding them to safer, smarter decisions. As Evans says, "Our emphasis is on finding solutions and implementing preventive measures that can protect our children from life on the streets, juvenile detention or prison."
The philosophy behind STAR Mentoring Services is simple—there are no bad kids, only bad circumstances. This perspective seems to be verified by the success rates of STAR services, based on weekly and monthly reports from DCF, mentors, mentees, parents and teachers showing measurable, significant improvements.
- 75% improve their academic performance
- 60% improve classroom behavior
- 50% are now more able to avoid delinquency
- 75% show measurable improvement in key skills including the ability to express feelings, completing homework, and making decisions
- 85% demonstrate improved self-confidence
Statistics like these, collected over a three-year period starting in 2002, reinforce Evans' ideals and assist her in accomplishing the goals STAR Mentoring sets for each child it serves. "We can't expect our children to perform and become good citizens if we don't show them we believe in them." Evans explains, "If we really want to keep these children out of the judicial system, we need to show them love and discipline."
Several times a year Fay Evans holds an informational session to recruit new mentors. If you are interested in mentoring with STAR, please contact their office at (860) 560-7700.