In the specially defined relationship between a caring volunteer and a minor who is someone else’s child, good intentions and understandable motivations can sometimes cause us to slip and jeopardize our mentoring ethics. If you find yourself saying, “just this one time” chances are that you are about to stretch or break a mentoring boundary or ethic.
Ethical dilemmas for mentors most often arise in two ways:
When your mentee asks, says, or does something that creates a need for you to set and maintain a healthy boundary.
When you find yourself considering relaxing a boundary because you feel it is in your mentee’s best interest.
What might these ethical dilemmas look like for Seedling mentors? A few examples include
- A mentor believing that more mentoring time is always a benefit, which leads him to consider seeing or communicating with his mentee outside of school in violation of the school-based program model
- A mentor desiring to delight her mentee with a gift or surprise, which could accidentally create unrealistic mentoring expectations for the child
In any relationship between an adult and a minor, boundaries must be acknowledged and protected in order to maintain the relationship on a healthy basis and make both parties feel physically and emotionally safe.
The ethical principles and boundaries that guide and support Seedling mentoring are:
- Promote the best interests of the mentee and do no harm.
- Model responsibility and integrity.
- Respect the mentee’s rights and dignity.
Considering not only the short-term but also the long-term consequences is a good safeguard against ethical missteps. Remember, your Mentor Director is always available for support.