Youth mentoring—a consistent, prosocial relationship between an adult or older peer and one or more youth—can help support the positive development of youth. Mentoring has been shown to improve self-esteem, academic achievement, and peer relationships and reduce substance misuse, aggression, depressive symptoms, and delinquent acts. Many young people have access to mentors (both naturally occurring and program supported); however, many more do not. In addition, there continues to be documented variation in both the quality of mentoring and its impact on youth outcomes.
OJJDP has long supported mentoring programs. In fiscal year (FY) 2023, OJJDP awarded nearly $92.5 million to increase mentoring opportunities for youth and improve the quality of mentoring they receive.
Through its research, programmatic grants, training and technical assistance, and publications, OJJDP provides national leadership to support the delivery of high quality mentoring to a diverse and growing population of youth. The OJJDP National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) has been developed as a key research and practice resource for the mentoring field.
Programs and Funding
OJJDP's Programmatic Initiatives in Mentoring
Two programs—National Mentoring Programs and the Multistate Mentoring Programs Initiative—provide mentoring services for young people who are at risk or high risk for delinquency, victimization, and juvenile justice system involvement. Another targets youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system; and one is aimed at youth affected by opioid and other substance misuse.
OJJDP also supports the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC).
FY 2023 mentoring funding awards support:
- National Mentoring Programs – $45,000,000
- Multistate Mentoring Programs Initiative – $25,448,043
- Mentoring for Youth Affected by Opioid and Other Substance Misuse – $16,500,000
- Mentoring Programs for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System – $2,894,139
- National Mentoring Resource Center Continuation – $2,650,000
Training and Technical Assistance
OJJDP-Sponsored Reference Guide for Mentor Screening
"What You Need to Know about Background Screening: A Reference Guide for Youth-Serving Organizations and their Communities" is for leaders within a youth-serving organization (YSO), community members who volunteer within YSOs, and parents of children who participate in YSOs describes six layers of security screening an agency should consider when developing a comprehensive background-screening process.
National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC)
The goal of the OJJDP-funded NMRC, created in partnership with the National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), is to improve the quality and effectiveness of youth mentoring across the country through increased use of evidence-based practices and sharing practitioner innovations. In FY 2022, NMRC provided 17,000 hours of technical support in response to more than 759 requests from mentoring organizations.
The NMRC is comprised of three components:
- Comprehensive Website – This website features quality resources for the youth mentoring field, including evidence-based reviews, resources, and links to additional reading that can support practitioners, researchers and policymakers in evaluating and improving practice, understanding best practices in mentoring and supporting decisions related to the development, funding, and evaluation of youth mentoring initiatives.
- Research Board – This board's primary role is to assess and report on the evidence that bears on the effectiveness of different mentoring programs, practices, and resources that are intended to promote positive youth outcomes, particularly those relating to prevention of delinquent behavior, victimization and juvenile justice systems involvement.
- Training and Technical Assistance – This no-cost assistance that is aligned to evidence-based practices can be accessed through the website; it is available to OJJDP mentoring grantees and communities or organizations without an OJJDP grant. Requests for training and technical assistance can be made directly through NMRC's website.
From the Field
When Colby WhiteThunder first joined the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas youth council, he was a "real shy" teen who kept to himself. Now a youth ambassador and mentor to his Tribe’s children, Mr. WhiteThunder says he owes thanks to "almost a tapestry" of people—from his mother, aunts, and uncles to leaders at OJJDP partner UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth) and OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center. Their guidance helped Mr. WhiteThunder identify his strengths, develop confidence, and deepen his identity as a Native person.
As an aide for his Tribe's youth programs, Mr. WhiteThunder knows the kids "watch me, the stuff I do." He sums up his approach to life simply. "We're here to be good people, to be kind to one another—to be good stewards of our own families and treat others good."
Read the full story from the November/December 2022, OJJDP News @ a Glance.
Senior Grants Management Specialist
Training and Technical Assistance Contact
National Mentoring Resource Center
OJJDP's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
OJJDP's MPG contains information about evidence-based juvenile justice and youth prevention, intervention, and reentry programs. It is a resource for practitioners and communities about what works, what is promising, and what does not work in juvenile justice, delinquency prevention, and child protection and safety.
CrimeSolutions.ojp.gov: Mentoring Practice Profile
This resource provides findings from rigorous evaluation research syntheses in mentoring. Mentoring, as a general practice, has demonstrated positive impacts across a variety of delinquency, education, mental health, and substance misuse outcomes.
Mentoring Research Partners Program
This program supported researchers who sought to partner with OJJDP-funded mentoring organizations to conduct program-specific data collection and evaluation and improve mentoring organizations' ability to collect and analyze program-specific data and measures about the delivery and impact of their mentoring services.
High-Risk Youth Mentoring Research
The High-Risk Youth Mentoring Research program supported research and evaluations to further examine how certain characteristics, components, and practices of mentoring programs could best support youth who are at particularly high risk for delinquency.
Related Research Publications
OJJDP-Funded Mentoring Publications: Access OJJDP-funded mentoring publications.
Handbook of Youth Mentoring: This updated Second Edition of the Handbook of Youth Mentoring presents a comprehensive synthesis of current theory, research, and practice in the field of youth mentoring.
Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring: MENTOR's cornerstone publication details research-informed and practitioner-approved Standards for creating and sustaining quality youth mentoring programs and consequently, impactful mentoring relationships.
The Mentoring Effect: Commissioned by MENTOR, this report shares the findings from the first nationally representative survey of young people's perspectives on mentoring.
Center for Evidence-based Mentoring: At the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Center seeks to advance the production, dissemination, and uptake of evidence-based practice in ways that improve the effectiveness of practice and, ultimately, create stronger, more enduring mentor-mentee relationships.
Other Federal Resources
Youth.gov: Mentoring: Youth.gov (formerly FindYouthInfo.gov) was created by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP), which is composed of representatives from 19 federal agencies that support programs and services focusing on youth. The IWGYP promotes the goal of positive, healthy outcomes for youth. There is also a related OJJDP-funded topical page about serving Children of Incarcerated Parents.
Department of Labor: Office of Disability Employment Policy: Career-focused mentoring provides young people the opportunity to get a glimpse of the world of work that may not otherwise be available to them. It also allows them to gain and practice skills that are useful in professional and other settings, and to prepare for life as an adult.