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Mentoring program helps adopted children
UMass Student Mentors, Rudd Adoption Mentoring Program

As far as I know, this is the only program of its type.
-Jen Dolan, Program Manager

When their adopted children, following apparently happy and normal childhoods, reached middle school and began to experience behavioral and academic problems, a group of Amherst area parents turned to UMass Amherst for help. Their search for solutions led to the Rudd Adoption Research Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, and the creation of the Adoption Mentoring Partnership.

“I wish there had been a program like this for me when I was younger,” says Sarah Hurst ’14. Her words are echoed by fellow UMass Amherst student mentors—Gabriela Bishop ’13, Elena Faltas ’12, Samantha Calabrese ’13, and Tim Dillon ’12.

The partnership, now in its second year, is designed to connect adopted pre-adolescents with adopted college-age mentors. The goal is to match the children with a friend, mentor, and role model who has a similar experience, and, who, because of this shared experience, can relate to the children and communicate with them in ways their parents cannot. In many cases the mentors and mentees share similar adoption stories and ethnic backgrounds.

“As far as I know, this is the only program of its type,” says Jen Dolan, program manager. “Adopted children have unique issues and challenges, and in many cases, those issues become apparent in the already confusing adolescent years.”

“I didn’t know anyone else who was adopted when I was younger,” says Faltas. “It is good for me to be there for her. She gets asked the same kinds of questions I did, and I can share that with her.”

Dolan says the parents are thrilled with the program and how meaningful the relationships have become, both to the children and to the mentors.

“My mentee is great,” says Calabrese. “We clicked, and I am like her big sister. She 10 years old and teaching me patience and understanding. I am learning about myself as I am making my own identity.”

“I am an only child, and he is like the little brother I never had,” says Dillon. “It is cool to know that I am making a difference in someone else’s life.”

Any adopted student who is interested in learning more about the Adoption Mentoring Program should contact Jen Dolan at jdolan@psych.umass.edu or 413 545-0547.

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