Fulton, NY – When it comes to providing services to children diagnosed with a mental health issue Catholic Charities of Oswego County provides several programs that are delivered in a way that is unique not only to Oswego County but also to most of New York State.
The agency’s Children Mental Health Services incorporates four unique programs that collaboratively provide children with a mental health diagnosis a range of services that benefit the children and their families.
One of these is Community Based Mentoring.
Established in direct response to a request from the Oswego County Department of Mental Hygiene, it is the only program of its kind in Oswego County.
Program coordinator Christine Williams said, “We developed Community Based Mentoring to meet a specific need. It has proven beneficial in helping young people succeed in life and contribute to society as they develop trusting relationships with adults who inspire and serve as role models.”
Youth 8 through 17 with a mental health diagnosis are referred to the Community Based Mentoring program through Oswego County’s Mental Health Single Point of Access Process.
Once the youth’s needs and goals are established they are paired with a mentor based on personalities, likes and dislikes, and other similarities.
The two meet three to four times a month for a total of 12 hours. Mentors provide support, counsel, friendship, and constructive reinforcement by spending quality time with them and engaging them in activities, or just talking and sharing their life experiences.
Williams, who also serves as a mentor for 12-year-old girl, truly enjoys the experience.
“I have all boys at home, so it’s nice to be able to spend some quality time with a nice girl such as Destiny,” said Williams.
While the two have enjoyed a number of outings including trips to the library, lunch at the lake, and shopping at the mall, it’s the family gatherings that mean the most.
“I incorporate Destiny into our family activities. It’s nice for her to experience a different kind of family life and feel she is a part of our family too,” explained Williams.
According to program supervisor, Gail Cooper, Williams’ experience as a mentor is a good representation of the feedback she receives from the mentors.
“Our mentors say it is a very satisfying experience for them. They become attached to their youth and develop a trusting and nurturing relationship. Many of our youth are from one-parent homes or living with relatives. Being able to bond with an adult and see the world through different eyes is a tremendous benefit, and making a positive impact on a young person’s life is an achievement our mentors never forget,” said Cooper.
Ann Marie Ellis, now in her third year as a mentor with the program, discovered the Community Based Mentoring program after reading an article about the program.
Currently serving as mentor to a 12-year-old girl, Ellis is impressed with the program and how much it benefits the youth that are involved.
“This program truly makes a difference. It is a very mutually rewarding relationship that we develop. For me it’s a heartwarming experience to spend time with youth that I have mentored. I enjoy spending time with them. Whether I am assisting them with learning skills; sharing some quality time with them at the park or participating in other fun activities; or helping them enhance life skills and social skills, it is a wonderful experience for both of us,” said Ellis.
“They really do become a part of our family. We celebrate birthdays, and Christmas with them, have had their family over for dinner, and with the consent of their parents or guardians we stay in contact after our time together has ended,” added Ellis.
“We are proud of our Community Based Mentoring program,” said executive director Mary Margaret Pezzella-Pekow. “It is a unique program that makes families stronger, children stronger, and our community stronger.”
For more information on Catholic Charities’ Community Based Mentoring program, contact Williams at 315-598-3980 ext 227 or visit www.oswego.com