Although unlikely, you can protect yourself by taking the following actions.

[faq category=79 template=accordion]

Understand liability insurance.

Be sure that the program you are working with provides liability insurance for its mentors and that you fully understand the extent of your liability and dimensions of any coverage that is offered. Strong mentoring programs cover this subject in mentor orientation sessions. If your program or program coordinator does not do so, raise the question and get an answer that satisfies you. There are very, very cases in which the mentee or the mentee’s family sues mentors (in both instances, very sadly, the suits related to sexual harassment or assault), but that doesn’t mean you should feel released from the obligation of understanding the liability issue. Doing so is likely to ease rather than exacerbate concerns, since you are likely to find that the liability issues that most worry mentors (e.g., that their mentee will be hurt in an accident in their company) rarely occur and are almost always covered by either the program or your personal liability insurance, which most adults now have.

Actively participate in the screening process.

Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring third edition (2009) recommends that all prospective mentors be screened to determine whether they have the time, commitment, and personal qualities to be good mentors. This process typically starts with the completion of a written application and includes at least one face-to-face interview and a personal and professional reference check, although in workplace mentoring programs the latter is sometimes replaced by the employee screening process that applies. See the complete list of the screening benchmarks in the Elements. For an idea of the kind of application form you may be asked to complete, take a look at the Mentoring USA form.  It is also important to note that many mentoring programs now also conduct criminal background checks.