National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

A Steady Presence in the Midst of Change: Non-Kin Natural Mentors in the Lives of Older Youth Exiting Foster Care

Munson, M. R.,
Smalling, S. E.,
Spencer, R.,
Scott Jr., L. D.,
Tracy, E. M.
Journal Article
Year Published: 2010
Case Western University, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Children and Youth Services Review, 32(4): 527-535, April 2010.
The National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. F31 MH 071024 and RO1 MH 61404 A1)

The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of the non-kin natural mentoring relationships among 19-year-old youths (N=189) in the process of "aging out" of the foster care system. Data for the present study are from the final interview of a longitudinal study of older youth exiting the foster care system in Missouri. Participants that reported a natural mentoring relationship at age 19 were asked a series of qualitative questions about their reported relationship. The sample in this study was 65% female and 58% youth of color. The authors used thematic analysis, informed by relational-cultural theory, to explore the nature of the relationships from the youth's perspective. These youth reported having natural mentors who served in a range of roles in their lives, including youth service professionals and friends of their families. These older youth also described the (a) qualities of their natural mentors that were important to them, (b) specific features of their natural mentoring relationships that they perceived to be especially helpful, and (c) the various kinds of support these relationships had offered to them. The authors also discuss implications of natural mentoring relationships for social work policy, practice, and research. Modified Author Abstract.

Correspondence to: Michelle R. Munson, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106; E-mail:, Website:
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