FOCUS was featured in the Daily Camera, Boulder’s local paper, on Sunday February 17th. You can read the article on their website.
We’re very, very grateful to the Daily Camera for featuring us and show casing the success of all our mentors and mentees. However, Federal funding cuts mean that FOCUS is facing a $30,000 shortfall for the year. FOCUS will be going forward and will continue to support people who are looking to leave a life of incarceration behind but with your financial help, we will be able to maintain the level of support and services we offer now.
For more on the success of FOCUS, visit our Impact page. To become a financial supporter of FOCUS, and help make a brighter, safer future for Boulder County, go to our Donate page.
In the past five months FOCUS has gotten calls from five other jail projects: Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, South Africa and recently Vancouver, Washington which are interested in replicating the program . This is really exciting, although we aren’t quite in a position to do that yet. We need to have the results of our first professional assessment (which is underway) so that we have evidenced-based results to validate our innovative approach. However, we are sharing our ideas and written materials. We look to the near future to create a useable guide for sites that are interested in working with our approach.
At last night’s ongoing training for FOCUS mentors, we got a refresher course in the concept of motivational interviewing, but we also dove into the questions: What does being a mentor mean? What does a mentoring relationship look like?
We all agreed that mentoring is a unique relationship. For ex-offenders, mentors are a totally new type of relationship that’s somewhere between a corrections officer and a friend. FOCUS mentors particularly exploit the fact that they aren’tpart of the system and can play a unique role of being a supportive person in someone’s life. For this reason we refer to the ex-offenders in our program as “mentees” rather than “clients”. The relationship is meant to be a dynamic one, where the mentee’s own solutions and reasons for change are centered.
This unique role can cause tensions as well. Mentees can be unsure of who this person is, coming into jail, trying to talk about their life. Should they trust them? Why are they here?
Success in mentoring relationships doesn’t just happen, it has to grow. Last night our mentors discussed some qualities of a mentor that allow these relationships to flourish:
- Safe and non-judgmental
- Open, allows room for mentee’s own answers
- Respectful of the mentee as an autonomous person
- Smiles and communicates warmth genuinely
- Stays positive, while accepting low-points in a person’s life
- Has empathy. This doesn’t mean they excuse or approve of the mentee’s behavior, but they let go of their judgments and sees the mentee’s perspective
- Creative and flexible
- Reliable, consistent, and dedicated: often very different from the normal relationships an ex-offender encounters, and can be a great way to model life skills
All of these qualities allow the mentor to build rapport with and gain the trust of their mentee, as they enter into this unique relationship. As our trainer said last night, this has to be the soil from which a relationship grows. Additional tools and techniques can be employed, but these qualities have to be the foundation.
This is why we don’t require our volunteer mentor’s to have counseling experience, instead we value individuals with unique backgrounds who are willing to share their creativity and passion with the program and their mentees.