Updated 1/21/2021

COVID-19 Pandemic

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Imagine LA families?

Our families continue to struggle to find balance during these uncertain and unprecedented times. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and people of colors, and our families face institutional barriers to success. That’s why now, more than ever, Mentors are so important. They offer connection and understanding, at a time when both of those are in such short supply. 

What does mentorship look like during the pandemic? 

The safety of our families and mentors is always our highest priority. While in Phase 0, per LA County guidelines, only virtual interactions are permitted. As we move into more relaxed phases, we will continue to strongly encourage virtual interactions, with the possibility of socially distinct interactions if done safely and with everyone’s agreement. Visit covid19.lacounty.gov for info.

What kind of activities could I do with my mentee during the pandemic? 

Our mentors have gotten creative with interacting with their mentees! Creative ideas include: a virtual dinner party; homework help over Facetime; play virtual games together; virtual arts & crafts activities; read books or articles together and discuss; cook meals together over Zoom; drop off seeds or plants at the family's door and have a virtual planting party later over Zoom; watch a movie on Netflix at the same time.

Do families have adequate technology access to participate in virtual mentorship?

Yes. The Los Angeles Unified School District is providing all students with technology (primarily Chromebooks and tablets), and our FTMs actively keep tabs on families’ needs, supporting them to access the technology they need. That said, families’ level of comfort and experience with technology varies; your patience and “IT support” are important ways to show your commitment and bond with your mentee as you navigate the virtual world together.

Since everything is virtual during the pandemic, can I become a mentor if I am not local to LA? 

It depends how far you live from Los Angeles. Any mentors matched today will likely still be matched with their mentee when COVID-19 guidelines are lifted, and the expectation is that all mentor-mentee interactions will revert to the standard protocol (in-person) at that time. If you are in another state, this simply will not work. If you are near but not in LA County, this is considered during the screening and matching process.

Your Mentee Match

So, each family member has a separate mentor?

Yes, each mentor-mentee match is a one-to-one match. Each member of the family, ages 5 and up, is matched with her or his own mentor. No mentee has more than one mentor and no mentor has more than one mentee.

Who decides when mentors and mentees meet for their twice-monthly interactions?

Each mentor-mentee relationship is unique, and you will work with your mentee to schedule your interactions based on everyone’s schedules. If your mentee is a youth, that will mean collaborating with their parent. Interactions typically take place during weekends and evenings.

Additionally, sometimes mentors and families decide that group activities, like group trips to the park or museum, will create even more fun and memories. This requires working together with your mentor team and family for scheduling. Virtual group activities would be a great way for everyone to bond during COVID-19!

What does “up to 18 months” mean?

Part of why our program is so impactful is that we train and guide our mentors to create lasting, stable relationships with their mentees. Given the challenges, lack of consistent support, and outright trauma that many of our families have and continue to experience, our mentors are a rock for them. A person they know they can turn to, to celebrate wins and work through struggles.

Around your one-year match anniversary, your FTM will convene you and your mentee to discuss next steps. For nearly all matches, the mentor-mentee relationship continues fully, continuing to grow and flourish until the 18-month mark, when the mentee graduates from the program. The expectation is for the whole mentor team to remain active until the family graduates from the program.

What if I have a question or concern during my mentor experience?

Your mentor team should always be your first stop to work through issues or opportunities. Not only will your fellow mentors have insights into the family’s preferences and needs, but they will also be able to share their perspectives, information, and experiences with the family to help you find a good solution. That’s why you’re called a mentor team – collaboration is the name of the game! And of course, your FTM is always there to support.

What happens if my mentee is not a good match for me?

Imagine LA’s Community Engagement Team works hard to hand-pick every mentor-mentee match, based on gender, geography, personality, interests, career, etc. Mentors should let their FTM know immediately if they experience any challenges or have any concerns about their relationship or interactions with their mentee. When in doubt, ask for help! And, as with any relationship, treat your mentee with love, patience, and compassion – and know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We encourage our mentors to exhaust all efforts to maintain the commitment to the mentee they are matched with. However, we do understand that sometimes, our best intentions do not manifest. If this happens, bring your specific concerns to your FTM for troubleshooting. In 14 years of mentorship, we have had few situations that required a rematch, and could not be solved with better communication, empathy, and mutual respect.

Do families ever drop out? 

There are times when, for a variety of reasons, families or mentors do not end up being the best fit for our program. If your mentee ends up having irreparable challenges, and you want to be rematched, we will return you to the mentor candidate pool.

Can I continue being a mentor for my mentee after the 18 months ends? 

Definitely! Many of our mentor and family graduates say their relationship continued to deepen and evolve after graduation, and families point to these relationships as one of the reasons they continue to thrive and reach new heights. Please note that if you do continue your relationship with your mentee, this happens outside of the structures of Imagine LA. Alumni Families have access to Imagine LA supports and services, but your FTM will have a full caseload of new families and mentor teams. Mentors are also encouraged to “re-up” and mentor another family through the formal process after taking a short break.

What if the mentee moves during my match? 

While rare, we take this and similar situations on a case-by-case basis, considering the mentor and mentee’s ability and capacity to continue meeting and other factors, such as the location of the family’s new home, its distance from the mentor’s home, and whether the family still resides within our service area.

What happens if I move during my match?

Communication is key. If you have any plans to move within the next two years (e.g., change jobs, start grad school, etc.), please be transparent about this during your phone interview. We understand things happen, but the disappointment of a mentor leaving mid-match is inconvenient and disappointing at best, retraumatizing at worst. Advance communication is the key to avoiding a situation where a mentor cannot fulfill their commitment.

Is there a financial commitment for mentors? Are there any boundaries related to money?

No, there is no financial requirement for mentors. The only commitment is your time and passion. Mentors will never be asked to spend money on their mentees or provide resources to the family, and no money should ever exchange hands between mentors and mentees. This is covered in depth during the Mentor Training. When in doubt, your FTM is always there to guide you!

What about birthday and holiday gifts?

For kids, always broach the topic with the parent(s) first. While gifts may be appreciated, they also may bring up feelings for parents who may or may not be able to provide their children with certain things around birthdays and holidays. Before any gift-giving, share your idea with your mentor team, in case others want to join in (not required). Keep gifts infrequent and limit their value to no more than $20. Your FTM is there to help.

Can I mentor with my spouse, friend, colleague, etc.?

We match one mentor to one mentee, based first and foremost on fit (not based on your outside relationships). Thus, it is unlikely that mentors who are connected personally or professionally will be matched with members of the same family. In the rare circumstance that you and your friend/partner/etc. end up being the best fit for two people in the same family, then the answer is yes. 

How long from handshake to training to match?

The duration varies case by case. Once you submit the Mentor Application, you will schedule a phone interview, and then – if we determine you are a fit for our program – your Mentor Training. We also conduct a background check. After completing the screening process, you are officially a “Mentor in Waiting.” Please be prepared for a patient process. The success of our program relies on the fit between our mentors and mentees, your match might happen within weeks, or it could take several months. We strive to move quickly, but for our families’ success, a strong match is more important than rapid placement.

What do I do if my family needs support or has a crisis and my FTM is not available?

You as a mentor are not expected to have all the tools to intervene in a crisis. When the enroll in our program families are provided a thorough list of emergency contacts for various purposes; direct your family to that list or in an emergency, advise them to call 911. Then notify your FTM as soon as you can of what has transpired with the family, and they will provide direction from there

Imagine LA’s Program

How many families do FTMs have in their caseload?

Imagine LA FTMs have a caseload of just 15 families, which is significantly lower than the standard social worker caseload in the nonprofit sector. We do this to ensure that FTMs have the capacity to build deep, caring relationships with each of their families and mentor teams.

Will families continue to participate in case management during the mentor match?

Yes, case management is provided from start to finish. This includes clinical needs assessments, goal setting, referrals and linkages to professional services and resources to address more serious issues, and ongoing support via collaboration with other service providers.

How do families first learn about Imagine LA?

Families are typically referred to us by partner organizations or case managers at shelters or supportive housing developments. Some families learn of us through word of mouth.

Are families legally required to participate in Imagine LA’s program? 

No. All of our families participate in our program voluntarily, of their own will.

How else can I support Imagine LA? 

The sky’s the limit! You can: volunteer at events, support Operation Family Fun & Care Packages, provide monetary donations, provide in-kind donations, share on social media, talk about Imagine LA with your friends, family, coworkers, community groups, and other organizations you are involved in.