Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $2,499,597)
This program furthers the Department's mission by developing and testing new mentoring practices to better serve children of incarcerated parents.
Children of incarcerated parents (COIP) face a host of difficulties, including family instability, financial stress, and stigma that put them at risk for externalizing problems leading to adult criminality, internalizing problems, and educational problems. Volunteer mentors can help COIP, but often struggle to build and maintain close relationships. With appropriate program enhancements, however, staff and volunteer mentors will be better equipped to meet the relational and behavioral challenges posed by the growing number of children affected by parent incarceration.
The applicant's goals are to enhance the quality of the mentoring services available to COIP and to help inform practitioners and policy leaders about the protective role of mentoring in at-risk youths' lives. To reach these goals, the Category 1 partner, Mid-Atlantic Network for Youth (MANY), will implement 17 new enhancement activities designed for supporting mentoring relationships. As the Category 2 partners, the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring and Innovation, Research, and Training (iRT) will conduct a longitudinal, multi-site, person randomized assignment evaluation of mentoring program enhancements from 1,440 matches (720 enhanced matches, 720 business-as-usual matches) from 20 programs. To maximize the generalizability, the applicant will include nationally representative programs representing a range of implementation models and partnerships. Additionally, the applicant will document the costs of delivering enhancements in relation to the benefits of the youth outcomes.
The proposed project will take place over five years and include four waves of data collection from two cohorts. In addition to mentor and mentee data, the applicant will collect data from parents, mentoring programs, juvenile justice facilities, and schools. Each enhancement will be assessed in terms of its fidelity of implementation and will be examined in individual models to provide both policy and practice recommendations. Analyses will determine whether (and which) program enhancements improve staff and mentor practice, match length and strength, and youth outcomes and how youth experiences and circumstances moderate the effects.
The applicant anticipates that these enhanced support practices will lead to more effective direct program practices, including better mentor and mentee training, more family engagement, stronger match support, and better matching practices for children of incarcerated parents. The applicant expects stronger direct program practices to result in longer and stronger match relationships, leading to positive youth outcomes. To inform policy and practices, the applicant anticipates presenting the research at conferences, a short course at the MENTOR/UMB Center for Evidence-based Mentoring, and publishing technical and non-technical reports.