The YMCA mentoring program has a new name: YMCA YouthLinks: Linking Youth to Caring Mentors. Our mission remains unchanged: to provide court involved youth in Montgomery County with caring and consistent adult support. At the Y, we strengthen our community through youth development, ensuring that our most vulnerable children receive our care and support.
Youth Links began in 2005 as the brainchild of a circuit court judge, the head of child welfare and YMCA leadership. Nearly a decade later, the court and welfare systems remain active in helping to guide the program. “Having a mentor can change the life of a child – it is a particularly powerful intervention for youth who have been abused and neglected,” said Agnes Leshner, senior administrator for Child Welfare Services, part of Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services. “Mentors can play a powerful role in improving a child’s self-esteem, reducing drug and alcohol abuse, youth violence and dropout rates. We are very fortunate to have both wonderful mentors in our community and the YMCA providing excellent leadership for the program.”
Montgomery County Child Welfare Services, therapists and school counselors refer children to Youth Links. Child Welfare monitors most of these children because of neglect or abuse in their homes. Many live in foster homes or receive other out-of-home care. Most are monitored by Child Welfare because of neglect or abuse in the home. Their stories are compelling and often heartbreaking.
2013 saw a record number of matches between children and their Youth Links mentors. Our new name marks the growth of our program and honors our commitment to youth development.