Youth Futures: Mentoring for At-Risk Children

Tzila and Liron, Youth FuturesThe Jewish Agency for Israel ©, Nir Kafri

Each Youth Futures mentor works with 16 at-risk children over the course of three years, teaching skills for academic improvement and social integration that last a lifetime.

Youth Futures, a Jewish Agency subsidiary and flagship program, is one of Israel’s leading positive-intervention programs. It creates opportunities for the strengthening of children, teens, families and communities by means of a model unique to Youth Futures – the model of the Youth Futures Mentor. 
Mentors are local young adults, professionally trained to guide 16 children in different circles of intervention: personal, familial, social and educational, with emphasis on full parental involvement and partnership in a long-term process (3–5 years). Each participating community also has a Family and Community Coordinator, who works to help families access the social services to which they are entitled, teaches parenting skills, helps parents manage their budgets, and harnesses the resources of the community to build a positive educational environment for all children.
A 2016 study by Israel’s Digma Institute of recent program alumni illustrates Youth Futures’ remarkable impact:

·           96% see their Mentor as someone who helps them succeed in life to a great or very great extent

·           84% say the program helped them raise their happiness levels

·           79% say Youth Futures helped them prepare for junior high or high school to a great or very great extent

·           75% say Youth Futures helped them take more responsibility for their own actions

·           76% credit Youth Futures with helping them lower their use of physical violence to solve problems

Two sub-programs of Youth Futures: 
Baby Futures is a new program in which the Youth Futures model is being applied to assisting at-risk families with children aged newborn to three years. Baby Futures has launched in six locations so far, including one in the Arab sector. The program will serve 100 parents in each locality every year, both in their home and in a group-community space. Individual intervention will be given at home to 30 families a year who show special need for assitance.
Youth Futures Alumni Network serves graduates of Youth Futures who are now in grades 8 – 12. With the guidance of Alumni Mentors, participants build on the personal, familial, social and academic gains they achieved as part of their experience with Youth Futures. Alumni also volunteer in their communities and serve as ambassadors for the program. The Parents for Change program supports parents of Youth Futures graduates. The program enables parents to develop skills for managing their children’s transition to adolescence and build parental peer support networks.