Things to consider when closing a mentoring match – Part 1

Mentoring programs create matches but don’t always consider what needs to take place when a match is closed. Learn what the best practices and proper processes are for closing a match while considering the best interest of the youth.

When creating adult/youth mentoring matches, adults and youth are asked to commit for at least one calendar year in community mentoring programs and one school year in a school mentoring programs. However, as with life in general, circumstances sometimes arise that cause a mentoring match to consider ending earlier than planned or expected. Circumstances that may result in match closure can include but are not limited to:

  • The mentor or mentee moving
  • A change in job or school
  • Financial challenges
  • Loss of interest
  • A mentee aging out of program
  • A mentor becoming too busy with their personal life
  • Mentor or mentee displaying inappropriate behavior or breaking rules/polices
  • The duration of the match has successfully ended

If a mentor, mentee or parent decides they can no longer uphold the mentoring program expectations for any reason, they should immediately inform a program staff member. The staff member will then conduct various inquires to assist in making a decision that is best for all participants, working with the mentor, mentee and mentee’s family to determine if the match should end. It is important the mentor, youth and family be in continuous communication with mentoring program staff during this time of transition, as communication is key in figuring out next steps.

If the staff member determines it is in the best interest of the youth to close the match, mentoring program best practices indicate it is important to have a formal match closure process so individuals understand what is happening. It can be detrimental to the youth or even the adult mentor if programs do not have a match closure process. A formal match closure process can include a meeting with a program staff member, mentor, mentee and mentee’s family. If a meeting is not an option, a detailed letter can suffice but only as a last resort after trying unsuccessfully to coordinate a match closure meeting.

The mentoring match closure process allows everyone to be on the same page, discussing what happened that caused the match to end and identifying future plans and expectations. It is hoped that individuals keep in touch once a match ends and that they remain friends. In this regard, it is important to discuss what “keeping in touch” looks like: is it calling each other on the phone once a month or scheduling outings every quarter? The definition of keeping in touch may be different to each person. Once expectations are clear, the match should be ended on a positive note and additional resources should be offered, if needed.

For additional information on closing a mentoring match, read Part 2 in this series. For adult mentors looking for additional information about mentoring, Michigan State University Extension offers volunteer mentor training that covers the many stages of adult/youth mentoring matches, including when a match has to end. You can find also find additional information regarding mentor training and mentoring program best practices on the Michigan 4-H website.

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