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Becoming a mentor for troubled youth is a noble calling. Youth mentoring involves helping at-risk children and adolescents reach their goals by offering support and friendship, providing counseling, reinforcing positive behaviors and leading by example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Different human service professionals mentor troubled kids to help them stay out of harm's way and lead more productive, happy and fulfilling lives.
A youth and family social worker is usually a bachelor's level professional who works with children and their families to provide mentoring, counseling, assistance with concrete needs like housing or food and other services to improve the lives of their clients. Youth and family social workers work in different settings, such as non-profit organizations, schools and walk-in clinics. As a youth and family social worker, you might lead gang violence or drug abuse prevention educational groups or mentor walk-in clients about a wide variety of issues, such as family concerns, academic issues or potential career choices.
Guidance counselors, also sometimes referred to as school counselors, are professionals employed in public and private schools to help children deal with a variety of issues that can affect learning. They might mentor troubled students about academic issues, social concerns, family problems or serious issues like suicide. They also offer vocational guidance, administer educational tests and intervene in crisis situations. According to the Princeton Review, guidance counselors must have at least a bachelor's degree, but many states also require master's degrees. If they want to work in public schools, they also need to be licensed.
Outreach workers are employed by a variety of organizations to help troubled youth, such as youth centers, schools, faith-based institutions and non-profit organizations. They usually have bachelor's degrees in human services fields, but they may also find employment without any formal post-secondary education. Outreach workers are active in the community, working on location in diverse settings like parks or on the street, to engage youth, develop relationships and offer services. In addition to mentoring troubled youth, they might offer education on issues like gun violence, gang violence or drug abuse prevention, run activity groups or advocate with parents and community organizations.
Teachers also often play important roles in mentoring, advising and supporting troubled youth. Although many troubled children won't voluntarily seek outside assistance from youth organizations or other similar agencies, they come into contact with teachers on a daily basis. Teachers are ideally suited to connect with and identify at-risk students and help prevent them from falling between the cracks. Some of the ways teachers might provide mentoring within the context of their roles include providing encouragement, spending extracurricular time with mentees, acting as positive role models or helping students improve their grades, according to a study published in the Winter 2013 issue of the "North Carolina Middle School Association Journal."
- U.S. Department of Labor: Career-focused Mentoring for Youth: The What, Why, and How
- National Association of Social Workers: The Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-CYFSW)
- RecordOnline.com: School Social Worker, Guidance Counselors Help Troubled Teens
- Princeton Review: Guidance Counselor
- Prospects: Youth Worker Job Description
- North Carolina Middle School Association Journal: Mentoring “At Risk” Middle School Students: Strategies for Effective Practice
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.