Every Story Needs a HeroWhaley Children’s Center Mentor Program


By the time a child becomes a resident of Whaley Children’s Center, they have, on average, been through 12-15 different home placements, according to President/CEO Mindy Williams. “During their time at Whaley, they are provided with a sense of home and family, and eventually become kids again,” she states.

Every story needs a hero, says Williams, and you can be one by joining Whaley’s Mentor Program and taking the opportunity to impact the life of a foster child. The program is dedicated to providing sustainable, one-on-one mentoring relationships for abused and neglected youth residing at the Center.

According to Nina James, Executive Assistant and Mentor Program Coordinator, Whaley currently houses 36 children and has eight mentors. “We had to pause our Mentor Program during the height of the pandemic and then again due to staffing shortages,” she reports. “It took a bit longer than we wanted to get it going again.


“Thanks to the power of mentorship and the care of their mentors, the lives of these foster children are transformed. They learn that they are not defined by their pasts, but rather, they have the potential to shape their own futures. With newfound hope and determination, they embark on a journey of healing and growth, knowing they have someone by their side, cheering them on every step of the way. And so, with the support of their mentors and the community, the kids begin to thrive, proving that a little guidance and love could make all the difference in the world. Together, we can create a brighter future for our kids, offering them the stability, care and guidance they both need and deserve.”

– Mindy Williams, President and CEO


“I love running this program for our kids and community!” James exclaims. “I have seen some really great and supportive relationships develop and actually last, even when the children have transitioned out of the Center. I hope we are able to get back to the time when every child had their own mentor, and we had a waiting list of community members who wanted to be part of the program.”

As a Whaley mentor, you get to spend one-on-one time with a child at the Center, Williams notes. “All mentor/mentee matches are made with your interests in mind, ensuring that each pair has something in common. Mentors visit their mentees a total of four hours a month which can be one hour per week or distributed to suit your schedule. The first four to six visits have to be on our campus; after that, you can take your mentee to the places and events that you will enjoy together.”

Becoming a Whaley mentor can be life-changing for both mentee and mentor. “I became a mentor at the Center after connecting with a young lady through Zonta Club,” says Jennifer Koester, Director of Independent Living. “I quickly became her ‘person’ and we still have a relationship years later. Now, as a Whaley staff member, I see from the other side how important mentoring is for our kids. They are surrounded by social workers, therapists, court employees and attorneys. They need a person, and that is what our Mentor Program is all about.”

Mentoring a child is powerful stuff, according to Amy Anderson, Director of Human Resources and Agency Operations. “It has the ability to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” she shares, adding that research demonstrates that it only takes three positive adult role models to change a child’s life, regardless of the circumstances the child comes from. “Whaley kids often have had few, if any, positive adult supporters who are there for them through thick and thin and they very much treasure the one-on-one attention they usually only get from a mentor.”

How do you become a mentor at Whaley Children’s Center?

Prospective Mentors complete an application and screening process. According to Whaley’s Mentor Program Handbook, applicants must be at least 21 years old, interested in working with young people and willing to complete the screening process. They must be willing to adhere to all program policies and procedures, be dependable and consistent in meeting the time commitments. Mentors must communicate regularly with program staff, submit activity information and take constructive feedback regarding mentoring activities. They must have access to an insured automobile and a good driving record, as well as a clean criminal and Central Registry history. Mentors do not use alcohol or controlled substances in an inappropriate manner.

What are the desired qualities of a Mentor?

A Mentor must be a willing listener, encouraging and supportive, patient and flexible, tolerant and respectable of individual differences.

What is a Mentor’s role?

Mentoring includes taking the lead in supporting a young person through an ongoing, one-to-one relationship; serving as a positive role model and friend; building the relationship by planning and participating in activities together; striving for mutual respect; building self-esteem and motivation; helping set goals and working toward accomplishing them.

What is the time commitment?

For one year, the Mentor will spend a minimum of four to six hours per month with the Mentee, communicating with them weekly. The first four visits must take place on Whaley grounds to allow the relationship to develop. Mentors attend an initial Mentor Orientation session, as well as additional training throughout the duration of the mentoring relationship. Attending Mentor/Mentee group events, mentor support groups and program recognition events is optional.

For more information about the Mentor Program, please email Nina James at NJames@WhaleyChildren.org or call 810.234.3603.


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