Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $496,922)
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.
Mentoring is commonly viewed as an important prevention strategy for youth at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, providing mentoring to the highest risk youth can be extremely challenging. This multisite randomized controlled trial examines the impact of a 12 year long professional youth mentoring program, Friends of the Children (FOTC), on boys and girls who were identified during kindergarten as at the highest risk and lowest protection for future problems, including antisocial behavior and delinquency. Mentors work full time with a maximum of 8 children at a time, and receive intensive initial training and ongoing training and supervision. Mentors are matched with same sex children, and the program serves equal numbers of boys and girls. Children were identified through an intensive six week selection process, working in partnership with neighborhood public schools located in distressed communities within four major metropolitan areas in the Eastern and Western U.S. The majority of children and mentors in the study are racial or ethnic minority. All children are growing up in families living in extremely challenging economic circumstances. On an annual basis, parents/caregivers, children, mentors, and teachers are queried about child problem behaviors and strengths. Measures of the mentor-child relationship, including direct observations of mentor-child problem solving interactions, are also taken each year. Child outcomes across the first 4 years of the program will be examined using cutting edge statistical techniques. The influence of the quality of the mentor-child relationship on outcomes will be examined, as will the influence of child race/ethnicity, gender, and initial levels of problem behaviors on outcomes. Cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses will also be conducted.