January is National Mentoring Month, and we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight an important distinction: the difference between a mentor and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
Volunteer mentors provide guidance, advice, and a positive influence to youth in our community in a variety of life situations.
While a CASA often serves as a mentor, friend, confidante, role model, and more, their primary role is to advocate for the best interest of a child in foster care or the Juvenile Justice system. After completing training, CASA volunteers are sworn in as Officers of the Court and have the ability to make impactful changes in children’s lives through the Juvenile Court system.
Regardless of the differences, both volunteer roles are beneficial to the healthy development of youth in our communities. Below, we highlight a few local mentoring programs in San Diego and Riverside Counties, many of which also partner with Voices for Children in serving children in foster care.
100 Black Men of the Inland Empire (Riverside County)
100 Black Men of America is a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of underserved, underrepresented minority youth. Founded in the 1960s, 100 Black Men’s motto is “What they see is what they’ll be,” with the purpose of providing holistic youth mentoring services addressing social, emotional, and cultural needs for children ages 8 to 18. 100 Black Men of the Inland Empire is a local chapter of the organization serving parts of Riverside County.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (Riverside County and San Diego County)
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and supporting mentoring relationships with youth in need across the country. The organization has local branches serving individual counties and areas, with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County encompassing the San Diego area, and areas of Riverside County served by either Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire or Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert. With a history stretching back to 1902, BBSA has a range of youth mentoring volunteer opportunities, from traditional one-on-one mentoring, to “big and little” peer mentor programs, couple mentoring, and more.
Foster Youth Mentor Program (San Diego County)
Headed by Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Agency and the San Diego County Office of Education, the Foster Youth Mentor Program (FYMP) pairs caring adults with youth ages 6+ in San Diego County foster care. These adults provide activities and resources aimed at building self-esteem for their mentees, such as spending time together, providing transportation, tutoring, and more. If you’re interested in learning how to become a youth mentor through the FYMP, contact volunteer coordinator Ross Ramos at (619) 767-5211 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guardian Scholars Mentoring (San Diego County)
Promises2Kids offers the opportunity for adults over the age of 28 to volunteer as a youth mentor for a current or former foster youth pursuing higher education. Through the Guardian Scholars Mentor Program, volunteer mentors are trained to provide support, guidance, and enriching experiences for assigned youth through one-on-one meetings, esteem-building activities, and constructive feedback.
Just In Time for Foster Youth (San Diego County)
Just in Time for Foster Youth (JIT) is a local nonprofit which focuses on serving youth ages 18 through 26 who are transitioning out of foster care. This transition into independent living requires support for aging youth to safely and comfortably ease into their community. JIT trains adult volunteers called coaches or mentors to establish a long-lasting relationship with youth participants. This volunteer mentoring program benefits the youth through one-on-one meetings, emotional support, resources for school and career exploration, and more.
Support youth in your community
Youth across our community are need of both mentors and advocates. There are many wonderful organizations to choose from when volunteering your time, and we encourage you to research the volunteer roles that best suit you.
If you’re interested in influencing the decisions that impact the future and wellbeing of a child in foster care or the Juvenile Justice system, such as their home placement, schooling, mental health, and more, consider becoming a CASA volunteer. At Voices for Children, we train CASAs to advocate for their assigned youth by getting to know the child’s situation, working with professionals on the child’s case, and writing court reports to inform the decisions of Juvenile Court judges. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, sign up for an online Volunteer Information Session today.