Reuters reported on 02/18/08 on a study in the February, 2008 issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that "natural mentors" seemed to provide a protective influence on kids in foster care who might otherwise be at risk for substance abuse problems, teen pregnancy, and delinquency.
The Assett model from the Search Institute has pointed this out for years that kids who have adult role models outside of the immediate family who are involved in the kid's life for 4 years or longer has a very significant and positive influence. These natural mentors such as coaches, teachers, neighbors, youth ministers, scout leaders, etc. are much more influential than other more formal mentoring programs where volunteers are often involved for only a few months or a year or two.
Alice Miller, the Swiss Psychoanalyst, had a wonderful term for this role. She called it "the enlightened witness". This was the benevolent person who validated the child's experience and knew what was going on for the child over the long haul. Are you an enlightened witness in any child's life?
Here is a snippet from the Reuters article:
Teenagers in foster care seem to have a brighter future when there is an adult in their life they look up to, a study suggests.
The findings, taken from a national survey of U.S. teens, suggest that "natural mentors" -- teachers, coaches and other adults who are part of foster children's lives -- can make a difference in their future.
In fact, they may be more important than mentors who are connected to children through formal programs, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.
This is because, unlike the typically temporary nature of formal mentorships, adults who are naturally part of foster children's lives may be around for the long haul.