A national initiative to expand access to mentoring relationships for youth impacted by foster care.

Silver Lining Institute

Youth serving organizations can take advantage of the capacity building opportunities provided by the first prong of the Institute’s work, which is providing training and consultation services focused on increasing the impact of mentoring programs. Utilizing the evidence-based Elements of Effective Practice, the Silver Lining Institute teaches best practices and serves as a strategic partner to mentoring organizations looking to better serve youth in foster care. Likewise, the Institute helps organizations involved in foster care services to run the most effective mentoring programs for the youth they serve. Click here to learn more about Training and Consulting.


The second prong of our work will bring change to the broader systems and policies that affect youth. The Silver Lining Institute will partner with state child welfare systems, government agencies, and policy makers to ensure that child welfare policy both prevents harm to children, and promotes positive relationships for youth. The Institute engages in systemic change by advocating for mentoring as a high-impact, low-cost intervention that engages entire communities in support of child well being.

The third prong of the Institute’s work inspires action in communities across the country. Through a public education campaign, the Institute will pursue a paradigm shift in the way communities and individuals respond to youth who have experienced trauma and family disruption. The Silver Lining Institute takes a strengths-based and trauma-informed approach to serving youth impacted by foster care. We will build a movement of allies and advocates who understand the needs of youth in foster care and will step up as volunteer mentors and supporters.

Our Vision

All youth deserve access to a healthy, long-term relationship with an adult in their community. Positive relationships in childhood lay the developmental foundation upon which all other lifetime achievements are built. For youth impacted by foster care, the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships is too often compromised due to the transitions of being in state care and the effects of trauma. With the support of organizations and individuals across the country, we can leverage the power of mentoring to ensure all youth impacted by foster care have a stable adult supporting them for the long term.

The Silver Lining Institute (SLI) was launched in 2019 to expand access to mentoring relationships for youth impacted by foster care nationwide. The Silver Lining Institute partners with service providers across the country to promote best practices in mentoring youth in foster care through a technical assistance program. The Institute cultivates long-term impact by raising awareness among local, state and federal stakeholders of the challenges facing young people in foster care and the positive outcomes that can be achieved through mentoring programs.

Mentor and Mentee

A Growing Need

The number of youth in foster care in the United States is growing. Over 437,000 youth in foster care can benefit from a mentoring relationship. Youth in foster care have experienced trauma, abuse, and/or neglect in their families of origin, and most youth experience multiple moves during their time in foster care. These disruptions hinder opportunities for consistent, healthy adult relationships and positive youth development is negatively impacted. Further, over 20,000 youth in foster care “age out” of state care annually, often not fully prepared with the life skills and emotional well-being necessary to become thriving, healthy adults. Youth who age out of foster care face significant risk factors including dropping out of school, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, early parenting, incarceration and depression. Mentoring is a proven measure for combatting these negative outcomes. Research shows that the presence of a caring adult can buffer against the impact of trauma.

Silver Lining Mentoring’s award winning programs have built a reputation for excellence, positively impacting the lives of youth in foster care. The average length of Silver Lining Mentoring’s mentoring relationships is 55 months, over six times the national average of nine months. Compared to national figures, Silver Lining Mentoring youth participants who have aged out of foster care are graduating high school at twice the rate of their peers and finding employment at three times the rate of peers.

Together we can realize a future where involvement in the foster care system does not limit a young person’s potential and all young people in foster care have access to high quality mentoring relationships.


Colby Swettberg headshot

Colby Swettberg, Ed.M, LCSW

Colby or They, Them, Their
Chief Executive Officer
(617) 224-1305

Christina Haines | Director of Strategic Initiatives (617) 391-9582

Christina Haines

She, Her, Hers
Senior Director of Strategy and National Impact
(617) 391-9582

Mobile Burrell

Christina “Mobile” Burrell

Assistant Director of Technical Assistance & Institute Initiatives
(617) 224-1304

Join the Movement

The Silver Lining Institute is actively recruiting partners to realize a future where involvement in the foster care system does not limit a young person’s potential. The Institute invites philanthropic partners eager to expand mentoring, influence public policy and promote communities that wrap around vulnerable youth with a sense of connection and belonging.

Clients interested in training and consulting to start up or augment youth mentoring programs can receive technical assistance through the Silver Lining Institute’s partnership with the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC). Organizations and individuals with expertise in serving youth in foster care are invited to partner with the Institute to share best practices nationwide.

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