Caring adults are the centerpieces of children’s development. They serve as guides, caretakers and advisers, who give positive and productive guidance throughout their development.
Parents come first. But children and youth also need other caring adults in all aspects of their lives: in their schools, neighborhoods, activities and communities. They need a network of caring and nurturing relationships with adults among their extended families, neighbors, teachers and coaches. And by all accounts, this positive influence in their lives proves to be substantially beneficial.
We measure “caring adults” not only by good relationships between parents and their children, but also by the involvement of others in school and through their communities who can guide, assist and mentor young people toward bright futures. What’s more, young people actively want this developmental resource. More than one-half of young people in the 2006 America’s Promise Voices Study(link) said that they look for advice and help from adults on doing well in school, relationships with friends, jobs and careers, and college. And more than 40 percent of the young people ages 8 through 21 said they want more adults in their lives to whom they can turn for help.
The 2006 National Promises Study reveals a number of troubling gaps in the distribution of this cornerstone Promise: One-third of teens and 20 percent of younger children do not have quality relationships with their parents. More than 55 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of younger children do not have caring adults in their homes, schools and communities. The 2014 report by MENTOR entitled The Mentoring Effect also showed that 13.5 million young Americans are without formal or even informal mentors in their lives, leaving them short of caring adults in their lives who have the ability to help them through critical moments when they most need guidance and support.
And all indicators point to this assistance being very powerful in the lives of young Americans. In its 2014 study The Mentoring Effect, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership showed that young people with formal and even informal mentors in their lives were far more likely to stay in school, enroll in college, become active in sports, become leaders and generally pursue higher goals than those who do not have mentoring relationships in their lives.
With the right guidance, young Americans are far more likely to make the wise life choices that will keep them on track to reaching the American dream as adults.All children and youth need and deserve support and guidance from caring adults in their families, schools and communities. These include ongoing, secure relationships with guardians, parents and other family members, as well as positive relationships with teachers, mentors, coaches and neighbors.