Ask a Mentor: Continuing Relationships

Volunteer Question

I am almost finished with my first case. The child "Jessie" is now twelve years old and is placed with her grandmother who has permanent guardianship. I've had the case for almost a year and a half and have spent a lot of time with Jessie. We have a really good relationship. I'm not sure whether it is appropriate to continue the relationship after the case is officially over—I don't believe it would matter to her grandmother one way or the other. I have not talked to Jessie about it, nor have I had a final case visit. I've been thinking about what comes after the case ends.

Mentor Answer

There's no cut and dried answer to this. I have taken the position of leaving it up to the children. When I make my final official case visit, I make it clear that the court no longer needs me to keep visiting and checking to make sure things are going well. Then I tell the children that I will always be their friend and that they can call me. I've had a variety of experiences.

The girl in my first case stayed in touch for about ten years. She then moved to another state and I heard no more. The girl in my second case still stays in touch—it has been over seventeen years. Some I've never heard from. Just last week, however, a boy who was three years old when I took the case and is now eighteen called me to ask for help on an issue. Some guardians assigned to older youth stay involved after the case ends so that they can serve as mentor for youth striving to transition into adulthood on their own. Occasionally it is the parent or the permanent guardian who will stay in touch or will call about something. This means they too learned to trust you and respect the help you can give.

If a guardian prefers not to continue a relationship with children at the end of a case, there are ways to say a caring goodbye that effectively concludes it. Furthermore, if children have a really good support network of family and friends—grandparents who have been involved or other relatives, for example—then they are less likely to need a continuing relationship. They move on with their lives. I let it be their decision, making sure they understand that I will continue to be their friend and that they can call me.

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