As a caseworker at Friendship Works, I think mentoring is fantastic. I passionately believe that what we do makes a difference to children’s lives – we help children explore their potential, get more out of their childhood and build a brighter future. But how do we prove it?
Over the past 6 months, I have taken on the challenge of looking carefully at how we review our matches between children and mentors and how we measure the benefit of our service in children’s lives. We have always carried out assessments and reviews with mentors, children and parents at regular intervals, but we wanted to look at how to improve on this to provide more reliable data to report on the impact of our services.
I started by thinking about what we needed to know and to measure to see how our service benefits children and to ensure we provide them with the best service possible. It seemed we needed information at different levels:
- Information about each child and their match: how are they getting on in their life? How has this changed over time? And how are they getting on with their mentor? This information will help us to best support that individual child’s needs and help their match to be successful.
- Information across all of our matches: What are the needs of the children and families referred to our service? What impact is our service having on all the children who are matched and their families? What are the factors that influence the success of matches? This information will help us to examine who we serve best and to prove how beneficial mentoring is.
- Information at an organisational level: How do the children, parents, and volunteers we work with feel about Friendship Works? How we can continue to improve the quality of our service as a whole?
The challenge was to come up with a new evaluation system which would give us these different types of information in a way which is easy to gather and a positive experience for caseworkers, children, parents and volunteers to complete.
To achieve this, I joined forces with Daniel Michelson, a Senior Clinical Research Associate at the CAMHS Research Unit, King’s College London. Daniel has years of experience developing review and evaluations systems for use in clinical settings with children and their families. He and his team conducted in-depth research into measurements used with children and with mentoring programmes previously and took into account Friendship Works specialist way of working to come up with a system which would fit our needs as well as being valid, reliable, user-friendly and effective.
Starting this month, caseworkers at Friendship Works will be using the new evaluation system in their assessment of families and in the review of all matches. We will be measuring the needs of the children we work with and their impression of the impact their mentor has made on their lives as well as whether they are getting from the service what they were expecting. We will be measuring parents’ impressions of the benefits of mentoring for their child, their satisfaction with their experience of their child’s mentor and of Friendship Works as a whole. With volunteers, we will looking at what they have got out of their experience of being a mentor, how they feel the child has benefited and what their experience has been of Friendship Works as an organisation.
We are really excited about the implementation of this system as we feel it will help us to consistently review and improve the way we do things as well as being able to show evidence of the amazing benefits mentoring can provide to children and families.
Caseworker, Friendship Works