The closure of a mentoring relationship is a natural stage in the life of a mentoring relationship. As outlined in the 4th Edition of The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ healthy closure, “brings the match to a close in a way that affirms the contribution of the mentor and mentee, and offers them the opportunity to prepare for the closure and assess the experience.” And yet nationally, 50% of all mentoring relationships end prematurely without assuring a healthy closure. Because research suggests that long, strong matches are more likely to result in positive outcomes for youth, steps should be taken to prevent closure unless it is planned and in the best interest of the participants.
The National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) Research Board suggests the following principles for mentoring programs to prepare and facilitate healthy closure.
- Clarify expectations around the match up front with all participants.
Common expectations that may be important to clarify include those relating to: communication between staff, mentors, youth, and parents; the quality and emotional depth of the relationships; and what closure will look like when it does happen.
- Don’t skimp on match supervision
It is possible that one of the best ways to avoid harmful closure experience may be to keep matches from disintegrating badly in the first place with effective and consistent match supervision.
- Program staff must “own” the closure process and ensure it happens
In the 4th Edition of The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ MENTOR recommends that all participants go through a closure process, even if it’s just an exit interview with a staff member, that offers:
a. Discussion of feelings about closure and its reasoning, if relevant
b. Discussion of positive experiences in the mentoring relationship
c. A review of program rules for post-closure contact
d. Creation of a plan for post-closure contact, if relevant
e. Creation of a plan for the last match meeting, if possible
f. Discussion of possible re-matching
These principles are accomplished only with intentional planning and supports. Within in Indiana, there are many organizations implementing and expanding these best practices. One such organization is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBSCI). “One of the Core Standards of Practice for Big Brothers Big Sisters Agencies is ‘Preventing and Facilitating Match Closures” explains Amy Pomeranz Essley, Chief Program Officer. One specific example of how BBSCI affirms the contribution of mentors and mentees is through their annual Celebrate Mentoring event at which they honor the graduating “Littles and Bigs.” This celebration ensures a positive and meaningful memory for the mentor, mentee and the family to recognize the closure of the match.
A youth who walks away from a mentoring relationship feeling bitter or devalued is a youth who may reject future mentors and other, healthier relationships down the road. Practitioners should do everything in their power to keep that from happening and follow through on their closure practices with much care and conscientiousness. The impact of that may last a lifetime.
Interested in learning more about ways to ensure healthy match closure within your organization? The Indiana Mentoring Partnership and the Indiana Youth Institute are here to support your commitment to quality youth mentoring.
Webinar: They Always Come, And They Never Say Goodbye:” Healthy Closure in Mentoring (June 2015) Click here
Request training or technical assistance: Click here
Spencer, R. et al. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A Qualitative Interview Study of How and Why Youth Mentoring Relationships End.” Youth & Society (2014): 0044118X14535416.
Zilberstein, K., & Spencer, R. (2014). Breaking bad: an attachment perspective on youth mentoring relationship closures. Child & Family Social Work.
Keller, T. E. (2005) The stages and development of mentoring relationships. In D.L. DuBois & M.J. Karcher (Ed.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring (pp. 82-99). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Spencer, R., Basualdo-Delmonico, A. Termination and closure of mentoring relationships. In D.L. DuBois & M.J. Karcher (Ed.) Handbook of Youth Mentoring Second Edition. (pp. 469-481). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.