This training was created to launch a new peer mentoring program. The agency wanted to pair experienced volunteers with new volunteers in order to improve retention and engagement. I designed this class around the roles of the new Peer Mentor position, with each role getting its own how-to section.
I also kept a sharp eye for potential challenges. For example, when I covered the Peer Mentor function of basic coaching and problem solving, I knew that the agency was concerned that the Peer Mentors would overstep into the Volunteer Supervisors’ responsibility area. So I defined the function in terms of how to do it and when to pass the concerns along. This helped fix the scope of the role in the Peer Mentors’ minds from the very beginning, and prevented that problem from occurring much of the time.
How to be a Peer Mentor
What do Peer Mentors Do?
Provide emotional support and encouragement
- Being a child welfare volunteer can be very draining emotionally. Everyone needs an outlet. Peer Mentors have been there before, and are perfectly suited to be that outlet.
- How do you know that someone needs emotional support and encouragement?
- What to do when someone needs emotional support and encouragement.
- Don’t wait for child welfare volunteers to call you with a crisis. Be proactive in your encouragement.
Help new child welfare volunteers identify when they need more help, and where to go
- As you talk to your child welfare volunteers, a variety of questions will come up. Some you can answer, and some you might not know the answers to. Your job is to answer when you can, and direct them to the best person to ask when you cannot. The best person is usually their Volunteer Supervisor, but sometimes it might be the CW, the GAL, or someone else.
- Ask yourself, do I definitely know the answer, or am I not sure if my answer is correct? If you aren’t sure, have them ask their Volunteer Supervisor, or double check with yours.
- If you don’t know the answer, direct them towards whomever you would ask in the same situation.
- Not all questions are asked outright. Sometimes, child welfare volunteers are struggling but don’t realize they are missing something. If you notice this, you can:
- Ask more questions to help them (and yourself) figure out what is missing
- Point out what you’ve noticed and see if that helps them
- Tell them stories about similar struggles you have had, and their resolutions
Foster a sense of community for new CHILD WELFARE VOLUNTEERs – 10 Minutes
- Develop a relationship with them
- Introduce them to other child welfare volunteers who you think they would hit it off with
- Encourage them to attend Kid Events, classes, and other child welfare volunteer happenings
Activity: Peer Mentor or Volunteer Supervisor?
In this activity, a variety of calls that a Peer Mentor or Volunteer Supervisor might make or receive are shared. The class identifies who should be making or receiving the call (the Peer Mentor or the Volunteer Supervisor), and why that is the appropriate person.
Using Motivational Interviewing to keep your Child Welfare Volunteers Engaged
Emotional experiences like the kind that often accompany being a child welfare volunteer can shake someone’s belief in themselves, and their commitment. When a child welfare volunteer comes to you saying things like: this is too hard, I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, or I am just so busy lately, you can use Motivational Interviewing techniques to help them recommit to their child welfare volunteer work.
- The MI Style
- Basic MI Techniques
Role Playing – Child Welfare Volunteer in Crisis
Divide into pairs. One of you will be a child welfare volunteer who has just had a very emotional visit with the kids. They just learned that they will be moving to separate foster homes very soon. You are upset for the kids, upset at the caseworker, and feeling really down about the whole process. The other person is the Peer Mentor. Have a conversation where the Peer Mentor uses our emotional support process and Motivational Interviewing to help the child welfare volunteer get everything off her chest and then mentally recommit to the child welfare volunteer process.
- What kinds of support did you have when you first started as a child welfare volunteer that made a difference for you?
- What kinds of support did you wish you’d had?
- Why are Peer Mentors so important to having a healthy and happy child welfare volunteer workforce?