Responsible mentoring programs need to incorporate a number of important program elements and policies in order to promote safe, effective mentoring relationships. The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ is geared toward helping mentoring programs achieve their goals. The Elements includes measures any mentoring program can implement to offer the best mentoring possible – mentoring that does everything in its power to help young people and keep them from harm’s way. These guidelines are based on solid research that affirms the importance of accountability and responsibility in meeting young people’s needs.

To request a hard copy of these materials to be mailed to you or your mentoring program, email

It is essential that mentoring programs screen all volunteers.

Your organization is ultimately responsible for screening mentors and placing them in the most suitable roles. Not every individual you recruit as a prospective mentor will be suited to become a mentor. Careful screening improves the quality of your mentors and helps ensure the safety of the youth in your program, while also managing your organization’s level of risk and liability.

  • Volunteer screening helps to retain individuals who have the sensitivity, commitment and sense of responsibility to be great mentors, and to screen out those who may potentially harm children.
  • Most prospective volunteers are honest and trustworthy individuals. But, criminal predators have been known to use positions in service organizations to establish contact with their victims.

Criminal background checks are critical, but should be only one part of a comprehensive volunteer screening process. A robust system of reference checks and interviews of potential volunteers, evaluation of risk and ongoing monitoring should also be part of your organization’s regular practice.

Below are some useful resources for conducting free name-based searches:

Assessing Your Program's Level of Risk

You will likely need to assess the potential level of risk in your program to determine what screening procedures you will use. High-risk programs will need more rigorous screening procedures. In general, the less a program supervises mentor-mentee interaction, the higher the risk. For example, a one-to-one mentoring program that allows mentors and mentees to do activities on their own is higher risk than a school-based group mentoring program that is always supervised by a program staff person.