In the Loop: March 2020
COVID-19 Resources for Mentoring Programs
As all of you work to respond to the constantly-evolving developments of school closures and program disruptions caused by COVID-19, MENTOR Virginia recognizes that this is an extremely difficult time. While the recommendation for social distancing and the limiting of in-person contact is critical for public health, it also poses real challenges to mentoring programs that seek to foster and nurture long-term mentoring relationships for our young people. While we recommend that all mentoring programs across Virginia suspend in-person mentoring , we recognize that our young people--perhaps now more than ever--need the connection with their mentor(s) to help them survive and thrive in this isolating and anxiety-inducing time. Please read on to find a collection of resources that may be helpful for program staff, stakeholders, mentors, and families as COVID-19 continues to disrupt standard program operations.
Sincerely,

The MENTOR Virginia Team
Accessing MENTOR Virginia's Services
MENTOR Virginia staff are not taking any in-person meetings or conducting any trainings through the end of March , at which time we will reassess whether these limitations need to continue into April.

Please know that during this time, the MENTOR Virginia team is available virtually to assist with any programmatic needs: we can be reached by phone at 804-828-1536 or by email at admin@mentorva.org .
Technical Assistance

COVID-19 is highlighting some of the challenges that mentoring programs are facing, and technical assistance is a great no-cost resource to help programs respond to this crisis in ways that lead to stronger, longer-lasting, and higher-quality mentoring relationships for more of Virginia's young people. Partners who apply for TA can access up to 50 hours of virtual consultation aimed at developing or improving the quality of one or more elements of their program.
Resources for Talking to Children & Families
Below are some resources that offer guidance to mentoring programs, mentors, and families as they talk about and support young people through the COVID-19 pandemic:
The Search Institute has released a tipsheet on how to respond to fear and scapegoating with young people during the Coronavirus, rooted in the Developmental Relationships Framework . This tipsheet highlights how mentors and other nurturing adults in a child's life can continue to express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities throughout the health crisis.
Here are a few more resources around taking an anti-racist approach to responding to and talking about the Coronavirus:
Facilitating Continued Mentoring Connections
As COVID-19 forces disruption to most mentoring programs in Virginia, here are some recommendations for helping matches maintain consistent contact without in-person meetings.

School/Site-Based Programs
  • Set up a pen-pal system for mentors/mentees by having mentors and, if possible, mentees email or mail messages to the program coordinator, who can forward them to the mentor/mentee.
  • Facilitate a 3-way conference call between each match pair to include the mentor, mentee, and a member of program staff.

Community-Based Programs
  • Matches can maintain consistent contact via:
  • Phone or text
  • Messaging apps (Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.)
  • Social media
  • Video chats
  • Mailed or emailed letters

As some programs are able to temporarily facilitate entirely virtual mentoring relationships, here are some activity ideas that matches can do virtually:
  • Start a book, movie, or TV show club together
  • Research and explore career paths, colleges, or community service opportunities
  • Watch TED Talks or TED ED videos together and discuss each video’s concepts
Saying Goodbye: Match Closure & COVID-19
Depending on how long the COVID-19 health crisis stretches on, some mentoring programs may face the possibility of being unable to resume normal operations before current match relationships must close due to the end of a school year or program cycle. No matter what, we recommend that whenever possible, mentoring programs formally close matches with mentors and mentees. All matches need the opportunity to say goodbye.

Here are our recommendations for facilitating virtual match closure:
  • Create a Virtual Closure Plan & Communicate It
Programs have options for facilitating virtual closure, two of which include: 1) Having mentors and mentees, if possible, write closure letters to their mentor/mentee and send them to the program coordinator to distribute 2) Facilitating closure conference calls with each match and parent/guardian, if relevant, that creates space for reflection. Once programs have a plan for how they will conduct virtual match closure, they should inform mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians of what to expect.
  • Communicate Important Policies
No matter how programs decide to facilitate match closure, programs should clearly communicate policies around future contact between mentors and mentees once the program has ended. It is helpful, even if these policies are communicated to mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians verbally, to also send a written letter stating that matches have closed and outlining what, if any, continued contact between matches is permitted.
  • Coach Mentors on How to Say Goodbye Before They Say It
Whether mentors in your program have the opportunity to say goodbye to their mentees through written letter, phone call, or video-chat, it is helpful to coach mentors on what to expect and what they are encouraged to say as part of the closure process. Prepare mentors to talk to their mentee about future contact and the possibility (when relevant) of participating in the mentoring program again without making promises they can't keep.
Practice Recommendations for E-Mentoring
Recently, the National Mentoring Resource Center released the E-Mentoring Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring . As some community-based mentoring programs consider strategies for implementing E-mentoring as a way to continue relationships in a time of social distancing, here are some best practice considerations.
  • Consider Whether E-Mentoring Makes Sense for Your Program
Mentoring programs should only consider E-mentoring as a temporary alternative to in-person meetings if it makes sense for their program structure and the policies already in place. E-mentoring typically involves unmonitored virtual interactions, and is not recommended for programs that have previously restricted matches from communicating by phone, email, or other forms of communicative technology. Likewise, E-mentoring is only feasible if participants will have access to the necessary technology.
  • Ensure Policies are in Place to Support E-Mentoring
Programs that opt to implement E-mentoring in response to COVID-19 should ensure that core policies are in place and communicated with mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians. These policies should cover acceptable platforms for virtual communication, expected frequency of match communication, requirements around privacy and confidentiality, and guidance around how participants can report concerns.
  • Obtain All Necessary Permissions
Any mentoring programs hoping to utilize E-mentoring to continue match relationships should ensure that all mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians are aware of the operational shifts and provide consent to participate in E-mentoring and to follow any new policies and procedures. Have a plan in place for closing matches that are not able to get consent from all parties to participate in E-mentoring.
  • Plan to Increase Monitoring & Support Efforts
Because E-mentoring interactions are more difficult to monitor, program staff should increase match support contacts with mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians to once or twice a month. During these virtual check-ins (preferably done by phone), program staff should talk with participants about challenges they are experiencing related to the introduction of technology or the limitations of virtual communication.