LANCASTER, PA – Touchstone Foundation announces at least $50,000 in new funding available to support youth mentorship in Lancaster County, PA. Youth mentorship funds are available for community benefit organizations serving youth, ages 0-26, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Touchstone Foundation will support applications that provide safe mentorship for youth, improve youth mental health and wellness, and utilize trauma-informed practices.
The first application is due February 15, 2024. Organizations interested in applying will be asked to describe current and past training provided for staff and volunteers who serve as mentors for youth and children. This includes training in mental wellness, trauma and resilience, and ensuring child and youth safety.
Touchstone Foundation will support workforce training programs for staff and volunteers, such as Youth Mental Health First Aid, trauma & resilience training, and more. Organizations interested in learning more are encouraged to participate in a free informational session, held virtually, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, from 10:00 am – 11:30 am, RSVP here. The informational session will be recorded.
Trained adults serving as youth mentors can further assist in providing the long-term relationships that teens and young adults seek. Partnering youth with mentors is an accessible way to ensure success. In a yearlong needs assessment of youth mental wellness in Lancaster County, youth consistently identified the need for a mentor. Touchstone Foundation heard the request from youth for someone the teen or young person could go to, talk with, share activities like video games, hiking, fishing, questions about school, navigating friendships, help with applying for jobs, and more.
Applications will be evaluated for their ability to complete the following:
Trauma-informed and trustworthy adult volunteers who support youth and/or young adults. Preference if they have past youth experience. Adult mentors should show evidence of completing mandated reporter/ child abuse prevention training, trauma-informed care training, and/or Youth Mental Health First Aid training, at a minimum.
Each adult or group of adults would be paired with a youth or a small group of youth. Mentees can be recommended for this program by school, staff/parents, mental health providers, or they can sign up on their own. Parent/guardian consent is mandatory. The mentor and mentee(s) will engage in approved activities (e.g. hiking, biking, sports, e-sports, crafting, arts, etc.) based on shared interests, with an openness to mental wellness conversations.
A consistent presence of regular meetings that can last long-term, from one to five years or more.
Guarantee safety first in all activities, ensuring child abuse prevention by pairing youth minors (under 18) in small groups with more than one safe adult present.
Use a flexible design to allow youth to modify and adapt activities to match their needs.
Provide professional and personal resources to be available for mentees, such as referrals and connections based on specific needs and goals identified.
Initial applications are now available and due February 15, 2024
Request for Applications (Phase 2) will open, by invitation, March 1, 2024, and are due April 15, 2024
Youth Mentorship Partnerships will be announced June 1, 2024, for a July 1, 2024, start date.
To learn more and begin an application, visit the Touchstone Foundation online application portal here: https://www.grantinterface.com/Process/Apply?urlkey=lancasterhealth
Needs in Youth Mental Wellness Study Results
Touchstone Foundation released a comprehensive needs assessment of youth mental wellness in November 2023. This was done through two aspects: a listening tour with youth ages 14-26 who live in Lancaster County; and an online survey of parents and caregivers of Lancaster County students, ages 5-26. Learn more about the Lancaster County Youth Mental Wellness Study Results here.
The study was designed to introduce the trends and common themes emerging. It is important to recognize that the experiences and perspectives captured in this report are not exhaustive, and additional considerations will continue to emerge.
We observed the following trends from parents and caregivers of children and youth:
Accessibility to, and quality of, health care and/ or mental health services has improved while the perceived wellbeing of young people by their parents has declined.
The largest increases over time in health problems experienced by children were behavior or conduct problems, hearing problems, and autism spectrum disorders. All health problems in this category experienced an increase.
While parents’ responses indicate that they generally trust their neighbors and neighborhood, this trust has declined since 2015.
Parents report seeking health-related information from their child’s healthcare provider, searching online, asking another family member, and asking on social media.
Parents report their children being purposefully excluded, lied about, hit, or teased by other children about once a month.
In the Youth Listening Tour, Touchstone Foundation held six focus groups with 100 youth ages 14-26, from August 2022- March 2023. One major theme that emerged from these conversations was the need for an option in mental health care that does not include clinical therapy or counseling, but rather the consistent presence of a safe and trusted adult mentor who shares a similar interest or can do an activity with the young person regularly.
Participants suggested solutions such as providing more options for activities during therapy sessions and allowing young people to access services without parental involvement. The participants in the Youth Listening Tour expressed a desire for a safe and trusted adult mentor as an alternative to clinical therapy or formal counseling. Several trends were identified relating to accessing mental health services. These trends include:
Pre-existing supports and coping mechanisms
Barriers regarding access to therapeutic services
Interpersonal barriers with peers and parents
Barriers within the therapeutic environment
Touchstone Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has focused on elevating the mental well-being of youth and children in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for nearly 25 years. Visit our website for more information: https://touchstonefound.org