Volunteers are being sought across the state to act as mentors to children. Adam Lounsbury, director of the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, says there are currently around 7,000 Iowans involved in a mentoring relationship through one of the partnership’s 80 certified programs. There are roughly 3,000 to 4,000 openings.
"There are kids on waiting lists that are needing mentors and want a caring adult in their life," Lounsbury said. Every year, during the month of January, mentoring programs across the country work to raise awareness about the positive impacts of mentoring and recruit more volunteers.
The programs include familiar operations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, but their are also a number of school or church based mentoring programs in Iowa. Lounsbury says potential mentors will go through a background check and are asked to be prepared for a long-term commitment.
"The programs that are really successful with good outcomes in graduation rates, grades, college attendance…are programs that have relationships that are a year or longer. A lot of the programs that have amazing results are multi-year," Lounsbury said. Iowans that are interested in mentoring can discover opportunities in their area of the state by logging on to www.IowaMentoring.org.
Once an individual passes a background check, programs try to pair adults with children that have matching interests. The children waiting for mentors are entered in the programs for a number of reasons. "It could be a (child) with Attention Deficit Disorder that needs to relate to someone, it could be someone that’s getting into trouble or it could be someone dealt with a loss in the family and doesn’t seem to be fitting back in to the school system and needs someone to talk to a lot…it’s hard to pigeon-hole them," Lounsbury said.
The Iowa Mentoring Partnership is a state supported program organized by the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.