Foster youth seek adult mentors

October 5, 2011

Foster youth, who have lost strong connections to family through no fault of their own, are craving adult guidance.

That is the word from Dr. Bonnie New, one of two coordinating volunteers for a new mentorship program being offered in Hood River and Wasco counties.

Mentor for Success is a program specially designed to serve foster youth from age 14 until the time that they "age out" of the foster system (between 18 and 21 years of age).

The goals of the program are to improve self-esteem, improve school performance and social skills, increase teens' knowledge of career opportunities and decrease the likelihood of future poor choices related to substance abuse or delinquency.

"I became involved after working as a CASA volunteer. I saw that many of these kids had no strong support or consistent relationship with an adult to give them guidance or advice about growing up," said New, a retired physician.

Volunteer Elaine Castles, a clinical psychologist who consults with the Wasco County public schools, is co-coordinating the two-county effort.

The program is seeking adult volunteers who are willing to be matched with a foster teen. The two will meet for 10 hours per month to share fun activities and phone calls. New emphasizes that adults will not be expected to act as counselors.

"This is really just about being there to listen, encourage and be a reliable adult for the teens in the program," said New.

According to New, three local adults have already stepped up to volunteer in addition to herself and Castle. She estimates that there are currently 15-20 teens in need of mentors across the two counties.

The program fills a service "age gap" between the programs already offered by Big Brothers-Big Sisters and the WINGS program. Mentor for Success is also specific for youth in the foster care system.

The teens will be referred to Mentor for Success adults through the Department of Human Services or Next Door Inc.

To become a mentor, says New, adult volunteers should generally like teenagers and be willing to offer their caring attention and reliability.

Often mentors come from the retired community or those adults currently without young children to care for, allowing time and focus on the teens.

"This program, based on the Powerhouse Mentoring organization model in Portland, is geared to support teens becoming capable, connected adults," said New.

For more information, contact Bonnie New at 541-991-8091 or or Elaine Castle at 410-231-1950 or The organization's website, now being constructed, can be viewed at

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners