Innovative Mentoring Strategy for Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence

KCSDV began the Empowered Families Kansas Project in 2016 as one of 12 demonstration sites nationally.

Five domestic violence advocacy programs in Kansas serve as project sites, providing mentorship to youth ages 8-18, who have experienced domestic violence, teen dating violence, and co-occurring bullying.

The goal is to provide mentoring relationships for the youth for a full 6-12 month period of time.

The five Kansas project sites are:

  • Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas (DVACK) in Salina
  • Safehouse Crisis Center, Inc. in Pittsburg
  • Safehope, Inc. in Newton
  • Hope Unlimited in Iola
  • Family Crisis Services in Garden City

Each site has a youth advocate mentor, working one-on-one with youth and their non-abusing parents and caregivers. These youth mentoring advocates gain mentees through referrals from shelter and outreach services, schools, and the community.

Youth advocacy mentorship focuses on helping youth improve their well-being and personal connections, their communication with non-abusing parents and caregivers, and their personal safety. Mentors build long-term, supportive relationships with the young people and their families. These connections help youth make healthy life choices and responsible decisions as active members of their communities.

KCSDV received feedback from mentors, program directors, youth mentees, and non-abusing parents and caregivers saying, “This program is working.” Many participants have shared stories of growth, success, and hopes for healthy futures.

Youth advocate mentors have planned several activities based on common themes identified by the participants. These include promoting the parent/child bond, positive family interactions, healthy relationships, and self-care. Mentors provide creative learning opportunities and healing moments for youth mentees and their families.

The mentors facilitate families sharing feelings, thoughts, and praise in a safe and focused way. Youth mentees and their mentors stream songs and music videos together in order to discuss and view aspects of healthy and unhealthy relationships shown and observed in the music and music videos. Youth also take relationship quizzes available on the Loveisrespect and Break the Cycle websites to understand healthy, unhealthy, and abusive aspects of their own relationships.

One of the most popular activities has been making self-care boxes. These crafts promote emotional regulation, healthy coping, and self-compassion. Many youth report decreased anxiety, improvements in sharing their feelings, and positive responses to upsetting situations thanks to their self-care boxes.

Youth join in many other activities with their mentor at their side. They enjoy outdoor adventures like nature hikes, yoga exercise, visits to the zoo, and bike rides. Teens participate in local PRIDE events, volunteer work, and job hunting. Youth mentees talk about relationships and what it means to be in a healthy relationship. They work on setting goals and expressing creativity and healing through art. They also share these moments of learning and growth with their non-abusing parents and caregivers.

Many youth mentees and their parents at the project sites have been involved in the program for more than a year now and say they want to continue.

Information collected from anonymous surveys tell us non-abusing parents and caregivers and youth mentees feel they have grown while in the program and are better able to communicate with their families, control their emotions, and have successful family, peer, and intimate relationships. Youth mentees and their families also shared the positive impacts of the program and their continued use of the tools and knowledge they gained.

Positive impacts of the youth advocacy mentorship program have spread throughout the communities of the project sites, and more youth and their families have sought and continue to seek involvement.

As the fourth year of the project approaches, project sites are looking at how they can serve more youth and their non-abusing parents and caregivers through volunteer mentors and additional staff members.

For questions about KCSDV’s Empowered Families Kansas Project, contact KCSDV’s Child and Youth Project Manager Carolyn Allred at

This project is featured nationally on the U.S. Government’s Family and Youth Services Bureau website at

The project is funded by the U.S. government’s Family and Youth Services Bureau FVPSA (Family Violence Prevention and Services Act) grants under the Specialized Services for Abused Children and Parents Program.

The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV)’s mission is to prevent and eliminate sexual and domestic violence. Find more information on KCSDV’s website at

The 24-hour Kansas Crisis Hotline is 888-END-ABUSE (888-363-2287).


Last Updated on Jul 24, 2019