I recently had to terminate a mentoring relationship with a young girl that grew quite attached to me. The program through which I began mentoring had both children and adult programs, and served individuals with mental health diagnoses or receiving counseling services for ongoing concerns. I had been meeting with this girl for about a year, and we quickly built rapport and grew comfortable with each other.
Though this was wonderful, it became difficult when it was time for me to stop mentoring. I would be moving across the state to New York City for graduate school. I also had another mentoring relationship through a different program that did not end well, and something of which I continue to think about and regret.
In my first mentoring relationship, a friend and fellow social work student, and myself mentored two adolescent girls together. We would meet at their after school program. Both girls came from families with a lower income. We had been their mentors for over a year. After returning from summer vacation, the girls were back in school, and me and my peer resumed university classes. We had contacted our supervisor to set up a time to see the girls to start off the school year, and nobody and returned our inquiries. My peer stated she was busy, and did not exude the amount of effort I did to ensure our mentoring could resume. University students get busy, and I understand that, but I didn’t want the girls to feel abandoned. Through further investigation and “bothering,” I discovered that the facility used for the program had been relocated and the mentoring program absolved as the director left the position unexpectedly. I contacted the after school program, but by the time I was contacted again, the fall semester was over and I was at home for the holidays. The next semester would be my final one at undergrad, and I do take responsibility for neglecting to further contact the after school program in order to speak to the girls in person. With that, I cannot help but feel truly terrible with how our mentoring relationship ended, and the fact that the girls most likely were not informed by the mentoring program supervisor of what was going on, and probably felt abandoned.
I hope you learn from this relationship, and understand that you must fight and use advocacy power to ensure client relationships are cared for and terminated well. Though we will all have stories of failures, and times when things did not go the way we would have liked, it is important that we learn from those times and do better. This is exactly what I did with my next mentoring relationship in order to ensure termination was successful.
After one year of meeting with this young girl, I had been accepted into Columbia University and would be moving to NYC. I knew well in advance the time I would be moving, and was sure to keep this person’s mother informed. About a month before I would be moving, I told Mom my plans, and she was so supportive and happy for my progressing education. Prior to telling Mom my plans, I informed my mentoring program supervisor, someone of whom was dedicated to the program and finding perfect matches between mentors and mentees. Though she was sad to see me go, she began the search for another well-matched mentor. A new mentor was not found before I moved, so the period of overlap and transitioning to a new mentor could not occur. However, I decided it would be fun and beneficial to stay in contact with my mentee as pen pals. Though we would not be in a mentoring relationships any longer, this period of remaining in contact to a lesser extent would allow for a better transition while she waited for a new mentor.
As one can determine from the above scenarios and real-life experiences, the termination of my second mentoring relationship went significantly smoother than the first. As it is with mentoring, especially with that of children and adolescents, it is important to individualize the termination period. Taking things into account such as the strength of the mentoring relationship, the mentee’s supports, the ability to transition mentee to a new mentor, and time period needed for well-adjusted transition.
With that, I encourage you all to look into your community’s mentoring programs. Mentoring a child or adult is such an educational and FUN experience, while you simultaneously encourage and support and individual in need!