Outcomes of the Reconnect Vocational Mentoring Programme
Our vocational mentoring programme for young people aged 12-16 seeks to improve behaviour and vocational skills whilst reducing reoffending rates. Young people on the programme are referred by Child, Youth and Family (CY&F), with the task of fulfilling a Family Group Conference (FGC) plan or Court Order. Young people referred often carry histories of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, crime and low social skills. The Reconnect Vocational Mentoring programme offers these youth a chance to ‘right these wrongs’ with the goal of achieving a clean slate under Section 2821.
Reconnect Vocational Mentoring’s 73% decrease in young people’s re-offending is led by the strong partnership between the young person and their vocational mentor, who guides them through the programme. Upon finding the right mentor match and co-developing a vocational plan, both the young person and their mentor schedule in weekly, two-hour face-to-face engagements, which are supplemented by texts and calls during the working week.
Building and empowering the young person from the ground up, the three-to-six month holistic programme encourages youth towards the right choices. It does so by teaching basics such as personal hygiene, appropriate dress and social norms, through to Ministry of Education-led literacy and numeracy assessments and completion of resumes and driver’s licenses. Along with the RISE process, which helps youth get to know themselves, their interests and priorities, these learnings help young people plan for a better future through using available community resources.
Personally-tailored plans informed by the young person’s journey of self-evaluation, introspection, and engagement find career paths they may aspire to, helping make their dreams an achievable reality.
Reducing youth offending is a measure of success for the Reconnect Vocational Mentoring team, who work tirelessly to achieve this whilst keeping relevant parties informed. Working to obtain clean slates under Section 282 as well as placing the young person in education, training or employment are also goals which require the team’s dedication.
Weekly youth-mentor engagement reports and incidents are sent to CY&F social workers, who are also consulted around programme end dates and issued with a discharge report. A cap of eight clients per mentor ensures focused support of the young person throughout the programme.
Part of the Reconnect Vocational Mentoring programme involves reaching out for community support to complete the young person’s plan or order. Through the programme, the community may provide support in the form of community hours, Private Tertiary Organisations (PTO) Open Days, one-week employment trials or other apprenticeships, and cultural activities such as umu cooking. The young person’s whanau may also receive support through reaching out to groups, agencies and providers recommended by Reconnect Vocational Mentoring. Between July 2015-April 2016, 66% of the young people on the programme returned to education or became involved in vocational training or employment.
Reconnect Vocational Mentoring’s home-away-from-home approach, coupled with focused personal plans, help youth discover other options for their future. RISE processes and strong mentor relationships help young people re-evaluate goals, while Ministry of Education-led teaching and community efforts help return the young person to school or employment.
When I first met this particular young lady she was 13 and had several Care and Protection as well as Youth Justice issues, which needed to be taken care of.
This young lady was in her cousin’s care, as she had regularly absconded from her parent’s care and other community placements that she had been placed in. There were issues with drugs and alcohol, and she regularly frequented the streets, prostituting to get money. She had little pride in herself and would often wear clothes that hadn’t been washed or clothes that were too small for her.
There were a lot of underlying anger issues with this young lady, which were evident when she spoke of her parents. She didn’t ever want to go back home to them.
Many hours were spent working with her, teaching her how to take care of her health and hygiene and personal belongings.
This young lady spent six months in residential care before being transitioned out of Auckland and into the care of her uncle. She successfully completed anger management classes, alcohol and drug therapy, and has re-enrolled into a mainstream school. She has been working on re-building her relationship with her parents and siblings with the help of family therapy sessions.
The young lady is nearly 15 now and takes pride in all aspects of her well-being. Her relationship with her parents has improved dramatically due to the supports that were put in place, and she is now wanting to transition back into the care of her parents and the local college here in Auckland.
She is looking forward to what her future holds and is confident that she can continue the healthier relationship she now has with her parents and siblings.
The young lady in this situation was 15 when we first met, and intuition told me that the facts did not match the personality of the girl in front of me. She was being charged with quite a serious violent crime. It quickly became apparent that this girl was in fact covering for her older brother and two of their friends. Although still wrong, she had only taken the victim’s wallet out of his bag, and had not been part the violence.
The first time I picked this girl up for a one-on-one session her emotions came pouring out like a waterfall. She had been waiting for someone to come along and listen to her without any judgement.
She was in a controlling relationship with her boyfriend, so I expressed my concerns and told her I would get her the help she needed.
It took her several sessions before she opened up and mentioned that her boyfriend had been hitting her. To her, this behaviour was normal because she had grown up watching other family members being beaten by their partners. Her family hadn’t been aware of the full story, so hadn’t been able to support her.
Supports were put in place for this young lady to attend therapy sessions, which equipped her with the tools she needed to deal with the controlling/violent behaviour from her boyfriend.
Over the next few weeks, her confidence levels were starting to build. She was starting to smile and wear clothes that she wanted to wear, instead of being told what she had to wear when she went out. She now happily tells of what has happened since the last time I had seen her, including being especially happy to be able to get her Dad a Christmas present this year.
This young lady is currently completing her order, but is looking at an early discharge by about three months as she has completed more than was expected of her. She has a set direction of where she wants to go, and is looking forward to starting a course at the beginning of the year.