RESEARCH ON MENTORING
Given the huge federal investment in mentoring, it is useful to lay out what is known about mentoring and its impact on behavior. Research provides support for the prosocial benefits young people receive from having at least one close, enduring relationship with a caring adult during adolescence (Butts, Bazemore, and Meroe, 2010). Such benefits include fewer risky behaviors, like substance abuse and delinquency (Aspy et al., 2004; Oman et al., 2004). Many believe that at-risk youth, like those who grow up in poverty and/or are in contact with child welfare, foster care, or the juvenile justice systems, lack such a relationship (Rhodes and DuBois, 2006). As such, mentoring is a widely used approach to match at-risk youth with a prosocial adult in an enduring and supportive relationship.
Most youth mentoring programs serve the broad purpose of developing competencies and future potential of mentees through ongoing, structured relationships with trusted individuals. Today, mentoring programs can take several forms: traditional mentoring (one adult to one young person); group mentoring (one adult with a small group of young people); team mentoring (several adults working with small groups of young people, in which the typical adult-to-youth ratio is not greater than 1:4); peer mentoring (trained, caring youth mentoring other youth); and even e-mentoring (mentoring via e-mail and the Internet). They can also take place in a number of settings, such as the workplace, a school, a faith-based organization or other community setting, a juvenile corrections facility, or a virtual community.
Evaluations of formal one-to-one mentoring programs have provided
evidence of improvements in self-efficacy and social competence and academic success, as well as measurable reductions in problem behavior (Tierney, Grossman, and Resch, 1995; Grossman and Tierney, 1998; DuBois et al., 2002b, 2002c; Keating et al., 2002; Karcher, 2005; DeWit et al., 2007; Herrera et al., 2007). A highly cited study of the Big Brother, Big Sister Program demonstrates that positive outcomes were sustained for both boys and girls and across races (Tierney et al., 1995; Sipe, 1996). Meta-analytic results comparing studies across a range of program types and youth populations also support the general effectiveness of mentoring programs; however, effect sizes are relatively modest, particularly when compared with effects sizes found in meta-analyses of other prevention programs (DuBois, et al., 2002a; Rhodes, 2008). Positive social, academic, and behavioral outcomes are more likely to occur when programs have best practices in place. Such practices include procedures to screen then train volunteers, supervise the matches, provide ongoing support to the mentors, and ensure a relationship of at least 12 months with frequent meetings (Sipe, 1996; Brady et al., 2005; Rhodes, 2008).
Although mentoring programs have been shown on average to promote positive outcomes in adolescents’ development, there is also evidence that (1) some programs are less effective, most notably those that do not have the structures to support the best practices; (2) some youth are less likely to benefit from mentoring; and (3) the measured benefit among different outcomes (e.g., academic, behavioral, social) varies within and across different types of programs. In other words, the current state of research can show only that mentoring works for some youth, in some settings, and for some outcomes (Roberts et al., 2004; Rhodes, 2008). Most of what is known about effective mentoring comes from evaluations of one-to-one mentoring programs. Other types of programs are just starting to be rigorously studied.
There is very little known about the limits of mentoring programs. The modest improvements in youth outcomes have not been tested to see if they hold up over time. Mentoring does seem to provide immediate academic success, such as improved test scores and school behaviors, but there is little known about its impact on other relevant outcomes, such as overall educational attainment, substance use, or juvenile offending (DuBois et al., 2011). The field has limited understanding of the characteristics of youth that are best served by mentoring and how many adults can be reasonably expected to serve as mentors (Sipe, 1996).
FEDERAL SUPPORT OF MENTORING
In 1992, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was amended to establish the Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP). The program competitively awarded three-year grants to community-based non-
profit organizations or local education agencies to provide one-to-one mentoring for youth at risk of delinquency, gang involvement, or educational failure. At the same time, Congress instructed the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to conduct an ongoing evaluation of JUMP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000).
The 1992 reauthorization defined mentoring specifically as a one-to-one relationship between a unpaid volunteer age 21 or over (mentor) and a juvenile (mentee) that occurs over an extended period of time. The program had clear expectations of one mentor for one mentee, and in the first few years JUMP grantees complied with this requirement (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000). In addition to individual grants to organizations, JUMP supported mentoring across the nation in other ways. OJJDP was not the only federal agency to support mentoring programs. In 1999, the U.S. General Accounting Office identified 45 programs in 10 agencies that included mentoring services for at-risk or delinquent youth as part (if not all) of the program. OJJDP administered four of the nine programs identified within the U.S. Department of Justice. One was JUMP; the other three1 had the authority to support mentoring programs although mentoring was not their primary focus (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
FY2002 was the last year for which a JUMP solicitation was issued. In the 2002 reauthorization, Congress consolidated JUMP with other program areas under the Title II, Part C, Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Block Grant Program. This new block grant program never received funding. However, OJJDP continued to support previous JUMP applicants and grantees (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2004) and subsequently turned to supporting different types of juvenile mentoring initiatives. From 1995 to 2005, more than $50 million was awarded to 261 programs through JUMP (Boyle, 2006).
In response to recommendations from the White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth (2003), the Federal Mentoring Council was established in 2006 to strengthen support for mentoring, coordinate federal efforts, and minimize duplication. The council is chaired by the Corporation for National and Community Service and includes representatives of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Labor.
To continue to support juvenile mentoring, congressional appropriators began carving out such funds from appropriations under JJDPA. Carve-outs for juvenile mentoring started at about $10 million in FY2006; one-third of this was available for discretionary awards, and the rest was congres-
1 The other three programs were Title II Formula Grants, Title V Incentive Grants for Delinquency Prevention Program, and Gang-Free Schools and Communities: Community-Based Gang Interventions.
sionally directed toward specific organizations (Office of Justice Programs, 2006). In its 2008 annual report, OJJDP reports spending more than $60 million on mentoring in FY2008. OJJDP was appropriated $80 million and $100 million respectively for juvenile mentoring programs in FY2009 and FY2010. All totaled, more than $300 million has been expended by OJJDP on mentoring.
At the time of this writing, OJJDP has six separate discretionary programs2 that support youth mentoring activities. In addition to these discretionary grants, OJJDP has also been tasked with administering congressional earmarks, many of which were directed to mentoring partnerships (Fitzpatrick, 2010). In FY2011, OJJDP also received a $20 million transfer from the U.S. Department of Defense to support mentoring for youth with a military parent. It is beyond the charge and resources of this study to examine the quality of mentoring programs supported by OJJDP and other agencies.
Recent solicitations from OJJDP indicate that the scope of mentoring support has broadened. Eligibility for awards now extends to organizations that include adults or trained peers as mentors, that provide one-to-one or group mentoring services, and that target not only youth at risk of delinquency and offending but also those more broadly at risk of unhealthy development (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2010). OJJDP is currently mandated to support mentoring for tribal youth, sexually exploited children, youth with disabilities, and youth in military families. Although these are notably youth groups in need of services, there is no research that supports the notion that they are more in need of mentoring than other groups or that these groups will stand to benefit more than other groups (Chandra, 2010).
One advantage of having received increased funding support for mentoring is that OJJDP has been able to use set-aside funds for research on mentoring. However, this is a case of the cart before the horse, with needed research being undertaken after an expansion of federally supported mentoring programs has occurred. Targeted solicitations went out in FY2009, FY2010, and FY2011 requesting research proposals to identify the components of mentoring programs with the greatest impact toward reducing juvenile delinquency and offending. Some proposals were open to field-initiated ideas regarding the selection of components, and others were targeted to specific programmatic characteristics, such as paid versus volunteer mentors or specific group mentoring programs.
2 The FY2011 discretionary grant programs on mentoring included OJJDP’s Mentoring for Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative; the Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities Initiative; the Multi-State Mentoring Initiative; the National Mentoring Program; the Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring Initiative; and the Tribal Youth National Mentoring Program.