ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida’s leading foster care agency is looking to recruit minority mentors.
Embrace Families President and CEO Glen Casel said the agency is looking for 100 new mentors with a focus on recruiting African-American men.
"One of the really unfortunate things about the current foster care system is, the further you move into foster care, the deeper your individual situation gets into foster care, the more likely, you are to be a black male," Casel said.
"We need to deal with what are those systemic issues that make that real, but we also have… to recognize that means we have some young black men. We need to be sure that they have connections, they have positive role models in their lives."
Casel said pre-pandemic, more than 30 percent of kids within the agency were paired with a mentor. But over the last 12 months, the pandemic has cut those numbers nearly in half.
"It's harder for people to stay connected. It's not necessarily safe. People's personal lives have been shaken and all of that it's just not okay for our kids," Casel said. "So we've got to get back on our toes and we've got to really re-engage the community."
Elias Quintana Jr. has been a mentor for three years and said being a positive role model who someone can relate to has a powerful effect.
Quintana said, "It’s important for kids, especially now, to see somebody that looks like them in their community that is successful, able to share life stories… I’ve just seen tremendous growth. [My mentee is] very outspoken. He has a voice now, which I think is just so important because of the social and political climate right now."
Quintana said his mentee has also gone from a C student in school to making A’s on his report card. He encourages anyone thinking of becoming a mentor to inform themselves of mental health and trauma.
Casel said it is also important to be honest about the time you can commit to being a mentor. "The last thing that our kids need is another revolving door of grown people right another revolving door of adults that let them down."
He said each mentorship is individualized and can be virtual.
For more information on becoming a mentor and to apply, visit the Embrace Families website.