Studying What Works, What Doesn't, in High-Risk Youth Mentoring

Evaluating a model program for mentoring high-risk children

For 18 months beginning in mid-2000, Public/Private Ventures, Philadelphia, tested the feasibility of evaluating a Portland, Ore.-based mentoring program for high-risk children, called Friends of the Children.

The program employs paid full-time mentors who spend at least four hours per week with no more than eight children, for up to 10 years. Friends of the Children addresses a growing concern that caring and responsible adults are insufficiently involved in the lives of at-risk youth, and volunteer mentors are not sufficient for youth at highest risk.

Key Findings

  • Program youth exhibited more delinquent/negative behaviors than did comparison youth. However, program and comparison youth scored similarly in several areas.
  • Teachers ranked the program youth as more seriously "at risk" than the comparison youth. According to the principal investigator, however, the comparison youth also exhibited behaviors that would make them appropriate for the program.
  • Program and comparison youth were similar demographically.
  • Creating a retrospective comparison group of fourth to sixth graders was impossible, since no documentation on them had been saved. However, data from fourth to sixth graders currently in the program could be compared to national samples of youth.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a $298,200 grant for the feasibility study between July 2000 and October 2002.