While mentoring usually evokes an image of an adult and a child, mothers need mentors also. The Mentoring Moms Program of Volunteer Center of Bergen County provides role models, advocates and friends for mothers involved with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) and the Welfare to Work Program. The Moms Program recruits, trains, screens, matches and supports volunteers who serve as friends, mentors and role models to isolated and overwhelmed mothers referred by Bergen County DYFS. This program provides a personal relationship for women in highly stressful situations.
Mentoring Moms is in its 8th year. The mentors come from all demographic groups and from towns in and around Bergen County. However, they all have in common a desire to help another women cope with the stresses of being a mother in various life situations. They offer caring hearts, listening ears, life experience and a willingness to encourage, guide and befriend a mother in need. The mentees enjoy the fact that their mentors listen, help them and encourage them without judging.
One particular mom was referred to Mentoring Moms due to a history of alcoholism, depression and family dysfunction. A college graduate and experienced nurse, she had no friends or family to turn to and was in danger of losing custody of her daughter. Shortly after they met, the mentor recognized this mom’s skills and abilities and worked with her so she could build on them. Her progress was not steady or easy, but this mom knew that her mentor was there for her and believed in her. The mom was diagnosed and received appropriate medication for her depression, became active in AA and found success in small accomplishments. Because of the Mentoring Mom’s program, this mom is active in AA, moved out of an unhealthy situation and is involved in the Welfare to Work Program.
Each volunteer has an initial interview, 15 hours of training and a thorough screening. The screening included written references, police, prosecutors and driver record checks and state and federal fingerprinting. Each volunteer participates in selecting the woman she will mentor and has an opportunity to speak with the referring caseworker to clarify any questions. The mentoring relationship builds self-esteem, helps develop coping strategies and produces long-term benefits for the mentee and her family.
Once matched, the mentors spend two to three hours each week with their mentees. Activities vary and can include walks in the park for exercise and conversation, going out to eat, running errands, accompanying the mentee to school or health appointments, taking the children to a library program, planning for a job interview and discussing goals and how to meet challenges. The staff is always available to offer guidance, identify resources and be a mentor to the mentor.