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Youth Initiated Mentoring:Investigating an innovative approach to mentoring at-risk youth

Award Information

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Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $499,323)

This program seeks to enhance what is understood about mentoring as a prevention and intervention strategy for youth who are at risk of involvement or already involved in the juvenile justice system. This program funds research studies that will inform the design and delivery of mentoring programs. OJJDP expects that the results of this effort will encourage a more effective utilization of resources and enhance the implementation of evidence-based best practices for juvenile mentoring.

Professors Jean Rhodes (UMass Boston) and Renee Spencer (Boston University), along with David Van Patten (President, Dare Mighty Things), Lawrence Bernstein (Principal Consultant, Data Smarts, LLC) and Tammy Tai (Chief Operating Officer, MENTOR) propose to examine Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM), a new approach to mentoring in which youth nominate mentors from among the non-parental adults within their existing social networks (e.g. teachers, family friends, extended family members). YIM is currently being implemented as part of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP). A recent evaluation of NGYCP suggested that long-lasting YIM relationships are associated with strong program effects (Schwartz, Rhodes, & Grossman, 2013). As such, YIM has the potential to redress two major problems that contribute to the relatively modest effects of many youth mentoring programs' high levels of volunteer attrition and long-wait lists due to difficulties recruiting appropriate volunteers. Prior to disseminating this promising strategy to programs serving at-risk youth, additional research is needed to identify factors accounting for high quality, enduring, and effective YIM relationships. The NGYCP serves youth ages 16 to 18 who are unemployed, have dropped out or been expelled from school, drug-free, not currently on probation or parole for anything beyond juvenile status offenses, not serving time or awaiting sentencing, not under indictment or charged, and not convicted of a felony or capital offense.

To accomplish the project goals, the research team will draw on extant program data and collect 3 waves of survey data at baseline, 9 months and 15 months. The project will also conduct in-depth interviews with 30 youth and their mentors, gather training materials, and collect program-level data. In partnership with MENTOR, the team will also develop and disseminate a set of research-based recommendations to strengthen YIM across a wide network of programs serving at-risk youth. Progress will be measured in terms of the research team's capacity to work with NGYCP to collect high-quality survey and interview data with minimal (less than 10%) attrition over the three waves. It will also be measured in terms of the percentage of deliverables completed on time and meeting the funders' expectations for depth, breadth, scope and quality of study, and pertinence.


Date Created: September 29, 2013