August 27, 2020 – Best practices in monitoring and supporting matches virtually

Resources from the Call / Q&A with Dedrick Sims:

  • Video recording of Q&A portion with Dedrick Sims – LINK
  • Edmodo – LINK
  • MENTOR Colorado Free Consulting (Technical Assistance) – LINK

Breakout Room Notes:

Support/Engagement Activities:

  • There was a request for resources for virtual activities that are fun and interactive for matches.  A couple suggestions were board games, virtual yoga class.
    • LINK to document to share activities (please add to it and share with others!)
  • Art night: Many participants have tried, and all said it was a challenge with supplies and instruction. One person added that mentees were all in, but no mentors wanted to participate.
  • Trivia games/ice breakers: Work well in group settings. Have a lot of success with games such as Two Truths and a Lie; also the hidden talent prompt has worked well.
  • Consensus was that art or creative projects work best when they are organic and free-flowing with as few instructions as possible.
  • To support older mentors with technology, we are asking school counselors if we can have mentors go into the schools and use the library and the school’s zoom account


  • It’s critical to set up and remind matches that the purpose of monitoring is for SUPPORT, not punishment or oversight. 
  • One agency uses Salesforce for monitoring – mentors fill out a report through Salesforce after their meeting with their mentee,  and then the Program Manager follows up with the match if anything concerning shows up. 
  • Agencies who weren’t using an official platform for monitoring talked about how they do intensive screening and training up front as well as regular check-ins to monitor safety.
  • NOTE: These software ARE NOT set up explicitly to monitor matches. They are typically designed to be learning management or project management systems. They could be used to monitor match communication but it’s critical to know your programs’ needs, shop around for systems that work for you and know your system(s) well enough that you know how you could “hack” the system to get around privacy controls, etc. Also be sure that your program is using these systems in a COPPA Compliant way for youth under age 13 and that you have WRITTEN parent/guardian permission for ANY virtual platform your program is using. Also pay attention to how you set up user profiles to make sure that you can monitor communications but that communications between mentor(s) and youth(s) are private from other youth/mentors (e.g. – make the mentoring staff an “admin” access and make mentors the “teacher” access and any youth become “students” in that mentor’s class): 

Challenges/Questions We Still Have:

  • Challenges for monitoring for foster care based mentoring program include technology. Huge range of technology access among mentees, which makes it difficult to maintain engagement
  • How are school-based programs are responding to virtual mentoring. Challenges?
    • Working with multiple school districts with different return to school plans. Districts are requesting that program delays kick-off to help alleviate strain on school staff while they adapt to changing learning environments during the onset of a new school year.
    • Being sensitive to the already-swamped school staff at this time. We don’t want to drain the educators even further right now; many programs are pulling back for the first month or so.
    • One program (traditionally school-based; in-person) has chosen to only do virtual mentoring this year, even if the schools allow in-person. They felt it was safest for mentors, mentees, and staff and will present a consistent method of communication without having to switch back and forth all year.
  • Participants acknowledged that referrals and matches are dropping off consistently. One agency reported that 75% of the matches that have ended since March were due to COVID-related issues.
  • Several comments about burnout or “e-exhaustion.”  Especially from students, many of whom are online in school all day and aren’t interested in additional online communication. Mentors are also expressing frustration – especially mentors who are used to one-to-one in-person meetings.
  • One agency is challenged with families who don’t have internet access and they are also finding a drop in the number of interested older volunteers due to their worries about COVID. 
  • There are issues in rural communities with one major roadblock being lack of access to WiFi and connectivity.
    • One school district in a rural community bought 50 portable WiFi units which can be checked out to the families who just have to plug it in.
    • Another solution – parking buses that are already wired around the community to provide families access.
  • Challenges with aspects of programming that cannot be done virtually
  • Transportation issues – mentors are frustrated that they can’t drive their mentees

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