‘I am the face of success’: Peer mentors in child welfareedit
Child welfare systems have struggled to create innovative, culturally sensitive programmes to address the multiple and pervasive barriers that exist in engaging child welfare parent clients in their service plans. Peer mentor programmes—those in which parents who have successfully navigated the child welfare system and reunified with their children, mentor parents newly entering the system—are designed to address some of these barriers, to improve reunification outcomes. Focus groups with parent clients (n = 25) and interviews with peer mentors (n = 6) were conducted to identify the character- istics of peer mentoring programmes that are critically helpful to parent clients, as well as the mechanisms that allow peer mentors to be effective in their work. The qualitative analysis uncovered three general themes to which both parents and peer mentors frequently referred in interviews—the value of shared experiences, communica- tion and support. Additionally, the study found that peer mentorship has positive effects not only on parent clients but also on the mentors themselves. The inclusion of peer mentors in child welfare practice suggests an important paradigm shift within child welfare that could lead to culture change for the field.