Agency Looking For A Few Good Mentors

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For the past year, workers from the state's Child Protective Services in Payson have conducted a mentor program to help foster children benefit from the experience of adult role models.

Now, those same workers hope to expand the program to include all other children in the community.

"It's kind of like the Big Brother-Big Sister program," Lt. Don Engler said.

Serena Store, volunteer coordinator for CPS, said she's been working with the police, probation department and schools to come up with a referral list of children who could benefit from the mentor program.

"Right now, I actually only have three children in the program," she said. "As far as CPS is concerned, we've got a good 20 kids there that could be involved in the program, and that's not even counting those involved in DES."

The obstacle preventing further expansion of the program is lining up more mentors. Currently, there are only two adult mentors working with the three children.

Store said what they look for in a mentor is a reputable and caring person.

"They should be someone that can be involved in their everyday life," she said, "maybe go to their sports activities, help them with homework, play video games ... something like that so (the children) feel they have someone they can really open up to."

Engler said interested adults should be law-abiding citizens, and must pass a background check by the police department. Once a bank of mentors can be established, the program can be opened up to all Rim country children.

"We're not going to limit it to just DES or school referrals," Store said. "Anybody in the community can call us, whether it's a neighbor child or their own child. Anybody could call in and we could set that up."

"I personally think an awful lot of kids out there could benefit from this," Engler said. "We just need more adults to get in on the program."

For information about volunteering for the mentor program, call the local DES office at 474-6019.

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