Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteers
Who can be mentors in the program?
Kinship of the Park Rapids Area is unique among mentoring programs in that we encourage not only single adults but also couples and families to become mentors for children.
Am I good enough to be a role model?
Kids are not looking for perfection. Rather, they’re just interested in spending time with real people who might be able to share from their experience and enjoy including them on the journey. We have discovered that “ordinary” people can make extraordinary mentors.
What is the time commitment?
Kinship asks mentors to spend at least six hours each month for one year, and communicate weekly with their mentee. Getting together weekly, or at least regularly, is important to developing and maintaining a meaningful friendship. When face-to-face visits are not possible, mentors can stay in touch using phone calls, email, text messages, online calling, written cards, letters or postcards, etc. We have heard from many volunteers that the rewards often surpass their investment of time. They also tell us that including the kids in what they were already planning to do takes a minimal amount of additional time from their weekly schedule.
I don’t know if I could afford to take a child out once a week.
Kinship stresses “every day” activities. Rather than spoiling kids with costly outings, we have discovered that time together is the most valuable resource adults can provide. Time together might involve playing a board game, making a meal, doing odd jobs around the house, washing the car, flying a kite at the park, fishing, etc. Kids do need exposure to special events and fun outings too and Kinship participants receive discounts at some community businesses and events. Kinship also provides monthly activities that are free for both the mentor and Kinship kids.
What if I travel frequently for my job or for leisure?
The kids in our program enjoy receiving post cards or phone calls from many of our volunteers that travel regularly for work or leisure. Although it’s great when Mentors are able to select a constant weekly meeting time with their kids, for many it varies from week to week.
A year sounds like a long time.
It is a significant investment in a child’s life. That’s why it has such a great impact on all involved. Research shows that relationships that last less than a year may be more harmful than helpful. We are pleased that most of our matches continue on for many years.
I’m busy with my own family.
One of the great things about Kinship is that couples and families can volunteer together. Instead of pulling families apart, Kinship can strengthen them through common volunteer involvement. Your children, or perhaps grandchildren, can interact with your mentee, too.
Would a child like me?
Adult-child matches are carefully made, based upon interest, location, gender and other preferences. The child and his/her parent or guardian have the final approval of the Mentor. Kinship staff consistently monitors the matches and if difficulties arise, we provide assistance. Few matches end because of incompatibility.
Am I too old to mentor?
Some of our mentors take on a role similar to a grandparent. The kids don’t see age as a problem. Anyone willing to share their time and interests is commonly welcomed.
I don’t have much experience with kids.
You don’t need experience to be a friend. Additionally, Kinship staff provides ongoing support when questions or concerns arise. Guidelines that help foster a good relationship are also provided during the orientation mentors receive.
What if I’m matched with a child I can’t handle?
Kinship carefully matches volunteers with children with whom they feel they could work well. Some of our kids require more experienced volunteers because of troubled backgrounds or emotional/behavioral disorders. Our staff works hard to learn and provide full disclosure of the children’s background to prospective volunteers. Occasionally staff will arrange for the mentor to meet with other professionals working with the child for them to gain helpful insights. Most children simply need a positive, caring adult in their life.
How much personal liability is involved?
Kinship of the Park Rapids Area works to diminish participant liability by carefully screening program participants and meets the rigorous Kinship Inc. standards. Kinship of the Park Rapids Area has liability insurance which also covers volunteer Mentors. Mentors are required to have automobile insurance under state law and are encouraged to carry personal liability insurance.
Will this be a bad influence on my own children?
If you have children at home, Kinship takes them into account when matching you with a child. Giving and helping others is often the kind of legacy parents want to leave with their children.
Do I have to drive a long distance to be a mentor?
Geographic proximity is a key determinant when suggesting potential matches. Usually we’re able to match a mentor and mentee within a 15 minute drive of one another.