Mentee Readiness

Young man with white hair
    Stop Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

    “This project was supported by Grant #2017-MC-FX-K051 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.” 

    Just like mentors, mentees must be willing to commit to a mutually beneficial relationship. This means being willing to invest in the relationship and agreeing to participate in activities such as collaborating on goals. Mentoring relationships have the potential to create new value and meaning in the lives of youth. However, failed mentoring relationships, especially those lasting less than a year, can do harm and create mistrust in the youth who participate (Grossman & Rhodes, 2002; Spencer, Collins, Ward, & Smashnaya, 2010). While most research focuses on mentor readiness, ensuring a mentee is ready to enter a mentoring relationship paves the way for success. The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, a compendium of evidence-informed practices in mentoring, includes several standards around mentee recruitment and screening.

    These standards include:

    • Recruitment materials that accurately reflect the program benefits and expectations in a way that allows prospective mentees to assess the relevance of participation for them individually.
    • A written application in which a mentee shares information specific to their interest in mentoring.
    • A written form in which a mentee provides their assent/consent to participation in the program.
    • Orientation training for mentees that details program expectations for the mentoring relationship, program policies and expectations, and addresses questions and concerns.

    In addition, other ideas to consider while assessing mentee readiness when supporting victims and survivors of CSE are:

    • A potential mentee should be assessed for readiness (i.e. mentally and emotionally ready to engage in relationship with a mentor) (Dubois & Felner, 2016).
    • The Stages of Change is an important model to consider with regards to assessing mentee readiness (Boddy, Agllias, & Gray, 2012). The Stages of Change Model describes how a person modifies their behavior through six stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance (which includes relapse).
      • Mentees who are unwilling to commit to change (i.e. in the pre-contemplation or contemplation stage) are likely to be unsatisfied and gain little from a mentoring relationship (Boddy, Agllias, & Gray, 2012).
    • Research shows that adverse challenges and barriers can affect a mentoring relationship (Boddy et al., 2012).
      • The trauma that victims/survivors of trafficking have faced has an impact on their emotional, mental, social, physical, and spiritual health (National Sexual Violence Research Center, 2014).
    • Victims/survivors of trafficking are likely to have more unstable or transient lifestyles, depending on their stage of recovery (DuBois & Felner, 2016). This can make consistent contact with a mentor difficult.
      • Additionally, because of the traumatic nature of trafficking, it may be necessary for victims/survivors of trafficking to participate in and complete other forms of support services before they are ready to engage in a mentoring relationship (DuBois & Felner, 2016).
    • Research consistently shows that mentoring relationships lasting at least a year are more successful and produce greater benefits for the mentees (Grossman & Rhodes, 2002; Higley, Walker, Bishop, & Fritz, 2014; Spencer et al., 2010). Like mentors, mentees should also be prepared to commit at least one year to the relationship, if this is consistent with the program model.
      • A one-year commitment may seem daunting to a youth who is in the process of exiting or has just exited a life of commercial sexual exploitation. Mentors should be educated on the potential for these youth to leave and return to services multiple times before staying committed (DuBois & Felner, 2016).
    • Mentee/mentor matches that receive support from their program tend to have better quality and longer-lasting relationships (Dubois, Holloway, Valentine, & Cooper, 2002; Higley et al., 2014). Understanding the Stages of Change Model can help mentoring programs be successful.
      • Recognizing where a youth is in terms of Stages of Change can help determine their readiness for a mentoring relationship. Not all potential mentees are ready to make a change, and therefore may not benefit from a mentoring relationship. They may not be in a place where they see the relevance of a mentor to their life and needs.
    • Victims/survivors of trafficking may face obstacles to mentoring that other youth do not. However, this does not mean that they would not be able to benefit from mentoring.
      • When engaging victims/survivors of human trafficking in a mentoring relationship, it is important to consider how past trauma may affect their ability to engage in that relationship.
    • Victims/survivors of trafficking are more likely to come from a home where violence and abuse are common.
      • Mentoring relationships can provide these youth with much-needed positive adult interaction (DuBois & Felner, 2016).

    Mentor Practice Implications for Individuals

    • Mentees should be assessed for their readiness to engage with a mentor and make changes to their previous circumstances and patterns.
    • As mentees, victim/survivors will often need support that goes beyond the scope of a mentoring relationship. Victim/survivors of CSEC would benefit from participation in services to deal with mental and emotional health issues associated with trafficking.
    • Mentees should be encouraged to make a one-year commitment. However, for youth exiting a life of commercial sexual exploitation, it may be wise to build flexibility into the relationship (i.e. the opportunity to leave and return to services) (Dubois & Felner, 2016).

    Mentor Practice Implications for Service Providers

    • Service providers should acknowledge the principles of the Stages of Change model. They should ensure youth are ready for a change before matching them with a mentor.
      • If a youth is not yet ready to consider change, it may be best to allow additional time and support before recommending a mentoring relationship.
      • Placing a youth into a mentoring relationship who is not ready will likely result in frustration from both the mentor and the mentee. This could impact attitudes toward mentoring in a negative way and, in fact, could harm a mentee’s relational expectations. This frustration could also impact mentor retention, resulting in additional challenges in mentor recruitment
        • Programs can provide alternatives to the traditional one-to-one mentoring relationship that will allow youth to be engaged with the project in a way that feels comfortable for them. Group mentoring, for example, allows an opportunity for mentoring that some youth feel is a better option for them.


    • A screening tool will help discover prospective mentees who are ready to take on the commitment of a mentoring relationship. In this tool, clearly stated requirements, disqualifications, and a description of the program should be listed. Ultimately, the screening tool should measure a youth’s openness and commitment to the mentoring process (Mentor Resources, 2015; Dubois & Felner, 2016).

    Pre-Match Training for Mentees

    • Training for mentees does not need to be as intensive as training for mentors, but it is important. Training for mentees should include expectations for them as the mentee, expectations for the mentor, rules of the program, benefits of mentoring, opportunities to consider for activities, program support, and boundaries. This ensures a mentee is fully prepared to enter the program and the mentoring relationship.
    • Some topics to include in mentee training are (Garringer, M., Kupersmidt, Rhodes, Stelter & Tai, 2015):
      • Purpose of mentoring
      • Program requirements
      • Expectations and roles of both mentee and mentor
      • Ethical/safety issues
      • How to receive assistance from service provider
      • Mentee goals and needs
      • Closure of relationship
    • Mentees should also be trained on risk management to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to feel comfortable in the mentoring relationship.

      Sample topics include:
      • Appropriate physical contact and relationship boundaries
      • Who to contact at the program if you have questions
      • Confidentiality
      • Mandatory reporting requirements (i.e. child abuse/neglect, suicidality, homicidality)
      • Digital and social media use
      • Types of mentor/mentee visits and approved activities
      • Transportation

    On-going Match Support

    • Offering support for the mentee enables the service provider to maintain continuous feedback to ensure the mentoring relationship is functioning well.
    • Most research focuses on supporting the mentor; however, feedback from the mentee is crucial to understanding ways in which the provider can assist and support the mentee further in developing a positive mentoring experience.


    • Identify and connect with community partners to receive referrals for potential mentees.
    • Partner with community partners to create a continuum of service linkages to support the range of service needs that may emerge for mentees, especially those that are victims/survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.



    • Boddy, J., Agllias, K., & Gray, M. (2012). Mentoring in social work: key findings from a women's community-based mentoring program. Journal of Social Work Practice, 26(3), 385-405.
    • DuBois, D., Felner, J. (2016). Mentoring for youth with backgrounds of involvement in commercial sex activity. National Mentoring Resource Center. Retrieved from: component/k2/item/125-mentoring-for-youth-with-backgrounds-of-involvement-in-commercial-sex-activity.html
    • Dubois, D., Holloway, B., Valentine, J., & Cooper, H. (2002). Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30(2), 157-197.
    • Garringer, M., Kupersmidt, J., Rhodes, J., Stelter, R., & Tai, T. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, fourth edition. Boston: MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Retrieved from: http://www.mentoring. org/images/uploads/Final_Elements_Publication_Fourth.pdf
    • Grossman, J., & Rhodes, J. (2002). The test of time: Predictors and effects of duration in youth mentoring relationships. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30(2), 199-219.
    • Higley, H, Walker, S., Bishop, A., & Fritz, C. (2014). Achieving high quality and long-lasting matches in youth mentoring programs: A case study of 4Results mentoring. Child and Family Social Work, 21, 240 – 248.
    • National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2014). Linking the roads: Working with youth who experience homelessness & sexual violence. Retrieved from:…
    • Spencer, R., Collins, M., Ward, R., & Smashnaya, S. (2010). Mentoring for young people leaving foster care: Promise and potential pitfalls. Social Work, 55(3), 225-234.
    • Taylor, J. (2003). Training new mentees. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. National Mentoring Center. Retrieved from:…