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.
This Category 2 (New Mentoring Research and Evaluations) project seeks to address gaps in research on the effectiveness of group mentoring and to inform empiricallybased best practices in the implementation of effective group mentoring programs. Population. the project will investigate a school-based group-mentoring program for 9th graders at risk for truancy and school dropout. Program Goal and Objectives. The study will address: (1) whether participation increases resilience and reduces risk factors for juvenile justice system involvement, particularly reduced truancy and disciplinary problems and improved academic performance; (2) whether group processes (cohesion, mutual help, connection with mentor) mediate the association between program participation and outcomes; (3) what program, mentor, and mentee characteristics contribute to positive group processes; (4) what program practices increase likelihood of positive outcomes for the group and its members; and (5) how structural, mentor, and mentee characteristics influence implementation and fidelity. Lessons learned will be used in developing a best practices operations manual that can be disseminated for use in other settings. Additional key products will be at least two peer reviewed research publications (one focused on outcomes and one focused on group mentoring processes). Activities Supporting Project Goals. A mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) study is proposed, employing a rigorous quasi-experimental design including mentored youth and a comparison group with similar demographic and risk profile to evaluate program effectiveness. These activities will support the development of empirical papers describing processes and outcomes of group mentoring. Qualitative data gathered via focus groups and mentor logs/notes throughout the project will focus on implementation issues (challenges and opportunities, acceptability and feasibility, fidelity). These data, in combination with the quantitative data and ongoing feedback from an expert advisory committee will support ongoing development and refinement of a Group Mentoring Operations Manual. Short-term outcomes will be assessed with pre- and post-test surveys measuring internal resilience assets, positive social connections, emotional/behavioral adjustment, and activity involvement. Group processes will be measured with youth mid- and end of year surveys. Intermediate outcomes (e.g., truancy, juvenile system involvement) will be obtained through school and juvenile probation records. State of the art statistical techniques will be employed to 1) maximize comparability of the experimental and comparison groups (i.e., propensity score matching); 2) account for the multi-level nature of the data, and 3) address potential bias due to sample attrition/missing data (e.g., multiple imputation).