Mission: Silver Lining Mentoring empowers youth in foster care to flourish through committed mentoring relationships and the development of essential life skills.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Relevance?
As an organization that was founded by an alumnus of the foster care system, youth voice is critical to Silver Lining Mentoring’s values and leads the organization forward. For example, Silver Lining Mentoring’s young people drove changes that resulted in expansion beyond its original Community Based Mentoring program with the addition of two distinct services for youth aging out of foster care at 18; Learn & Earn, which provides teens with the opportunity to learn critical life, employment, and financial literacy skills with the support of a mentor, and Young Adult Services, providing clinical support and resource brokering to young adults.
Silver Lining Mentoring is the only mentoring organization in Massachusetts exclusively focused on youth in foster care, whose healthy development is disrupted by frequent changes in living placements, homes, schools, and communities. Research shows mentoring and life skills development effectively combat the negative outcomes of spending time in foster care, including unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration; Silver Lining Mentoring works with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as well as local nonprofit organizations to provide its programs to over 400 youth in Greater Boston foster care. Silver Lining Mentoring implements best practices for mentoring and supporting youth in foster care in all of its programming and works as a thought leader in the field, sharing best practices and lessons learned over the last 16 years with other organizations and stakeholders. Silver Lining Mentoring knows its programs work: its mentoring relationships last 55 months, over six times the national average of nine months reported by other mentoring organizations.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Impact?
Silver Lining Mentoring has a theory of change: if the organization provides youth in foster care with consistent, positive, mentoring relationships, the opportunity to learn life skills, and resource brokering and support from Silver Lining Mentoring’s clinically-trained social workers youth will increase their social/emotional skills, social connectedness, positive identity, and self-efficacy to ultimately build resilience. Increased resilience will lead to improved outcomes for youth in adulthood, including healthy relationships, improved mental and physical health, and improved economic well-being.
Silver Lining Mentoring’s programs are directly informed by the youth it serves. For example, the Learn & Earn life skills program was developed as a direct response to older mentees, who were looking for more opportunities to learn key financial literacy, employment, and life skills with the support of a mentor. In addition, Silver Lining Mentoring is a founding member of Mass Mentoring Partnership’s Quality Based Membership Initiative, based on the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. Silver Lining Mentoring is in the process of implementing a validated Positive Youth Development assessment tool to more rigorously evaluate its programs and outcomes. Current data demonstrates the effectiveness of Silver Lining Mentoring’s services; sample data shows that Silver Lining Mentoring participants are graduating high school at twice the rate of their peers in foster care and finding employment at three times the rate of their peers.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Sustainability?
Silver Lining Mentoring works continuously to ensure the sustainability of its programs through careful resource allocation, investment in high-quality staffing, and a diverse revenue portfolio. Silver Lining Mentoring has significant multi-year grant partnerships, participates in three fundraising events per year, and makes an annual appeal to individual donors. Silver Lining Mentoring has a committed volunteer leadership team consisting of a Board of Directors and a Board of Ambassadors young professionals board, as well as a dedicated development and communications staff team working to build its individual giving base and capacity to leverage resources, sustain relationships with funders, and oversee fundraising events.
Silver Lining Mentoring’s programs are a sound investment for funders. Every year approximately 200 young adults in Greater Boston age out of the foster care system at 18. The Casey Foundation estimates that the lifetime societal costs for an individual aging out of foster care is $300,000, including public assistance, incarceration, and wages lost due to low educational achievement; Silver Lining Mentoring provides these young people with a unique opportunity for support that helps them avoid these negative outcomes. Since 2016, Silver Lining Mentoring has seen a nearly 100% increase in the number of youth it serves, while expenses have increased by only 40%. Silver Lining Mentoring’s development, finance, and executive teams work closely with its Board of Directors and Finance Committee to ensure that funds are appropriately managed and accounting is transparent. These groups work together annually to evaluate the previous and current years’ budgeted and actual expenses in order to create a budget for the next fiscal year that is in-line with the organization’s needs and programmatic and growth goals.
EXCELLENCE IN MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Excellence in Management and Operations?
Cultural responsiveness is one of Silver Lining Mentoring’s core values; we know diversity strengthens communities and we are committed to promoting all voices to further respect, compassion, and social change. We are also committed to innovation, encouraging creativity and collaboration in pursuit of leadership, learning, and continuous improvement.
In partnership with its Board of Directors, Silver Lining Mentoring’s management team ensures the organization meets all legal and ethical standards for a nonprofit in Massachusetts, and that legal, human resources, IT systems, and facilities are appropriately managed either in-house or contracted as necessary. The Board is identified on the Silver Lining Mentoring website, and members participate in-depth discussions with Silver Lining Mentoring’s management team and other board members prior to joining the Board to ensure they have the necessary experience, expertise, and commitment to effectively govern the organization. Silver Lining Mentoring’s staff is also publically recognized on its website, including its program staff, who all have degrees and expertise working with youth who have experienced trauma – essential for supporting youth in foster care. Professional development funds for each staff member are included in Silver Lining Mentoring’s annual budget.
Silver Lining Mentoring’s volunteer mentors are at the heart of the organization’s mission, participating in an information session, interview with Silver Lining Mentoring’s social workers, and nine hours of intensive training on mentoring youth in foster care. Throughout their relationship with their mentee mentors receive individualized support from social workers and mentors and mentees are celebrated annually on their match anniversary. Silver Lining Mentoring actively recruits mentors who reflect the identities of its young people, particularly in terms of race, ethnicity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and creates targeted marketing materials to recruit individuals who reflect those identities.
HOW DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ENGAGE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS/EMERGING LEADERS?
Silver Lining Mentoring actively engages young professionals and emerging leaders through its Youth Advisory Board and Board of Ambassadors. The Youth Advisory Board is made up of participants in Silver Lining Mentoring’s Young Adult Services program – young people who are over 18, have aged out of foster care, and whom are working with Silver Lining Mentoring on leadership and public speaking skills. The Youth Advisory Board meets regularly with Silver Lining Mentoring’s leadership team to ensure the organization continues to meet participant needs in a culturally responsive manner.
The Board of Ambassadors is a group of socially conscious young professionals who are passionate about the pressing need for mentoring and life-skills for youth in foster care and are critical members of Silver Lining Mentoring’s volunteer leadership. The group is dedicated to helping Silver Lining Mentoring bring its mission and message to the greater Boston community. Members meet six times per year and serve on one of three committees, sharing professional skills, connecting with new people, building resources, and broadening Silver Lining Mentoring’s scope of influence.