Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) Mentoring: Shaping the Dialogue with Law Enforcement

The Boys & Girls Club Movement

BGCABoys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) represents a federation of more than 1,100 independent Boys & Girls Club organizations and BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations. Every year in neighborhoods, schools, public housing, military communities and Native American lands across the country, some 4,000 Clubs serve approximately 4.1 million young people.

The belief that all young people deserve the opportunity to create a great future drives BGCA and Club staff at every level to fulfill their mission of enabling all young people, especially those who need the most support, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Clubs reach thousands of at-risk children in our nation’s most distressed communities. They provide youth a fun, safe place, access to services several days a week, and a proven youth development strategy that includes nationally-recognized programs. Youth build positive, lasting relationships with trained, caring Club staff, mentors and volunteers in a supervised, structured environment.

BGCA has found that the level of impact Clubs make on youth corresponds with how often and how long youth attend their local Club. Another key factor is how well a Club implements the five key elements of positive youth development: a safe environment; fun; supportive relationships; opportunities and expectations; and recognition. Supportive relationships are integral to creating positive youth mentoring outcomes.

Mentoring at Boys & Girls Clubs

Since 2008, Boys & Girls Clubs and the at-risk youth they serve have benefited from grant funding provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). As a result, Club mentoring programs in underserved communities have been expanded and enhanced exponentially. This year, BGCA through grant funding from OJJDP, will provide local Clubs with the resources to effectively mentor more 32,000 youth at 1,450 Club sites in all 50 states, plus American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Mentoring at Boys & Girls Clubs (MBGC) approach unites the powerful mentoring elements present in Clubs with formal mentoring practices and research/evidence-based prevention programs. MBGC provides a combination of one-on-one, group, and peer mentoring services. Mentoring is site-based and provided by Club staff, volunteers, and peers, with ongoing efforts to recruit minority male mentors.

MBGC incorporates each of the elements of effective practice for mentoring, including screening, training, matching, monitoring and support, and closure. MENTOR, the National Mentoring Resource Center and the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ have been invaluable resources guiding the development of MBGC mentoring programs and services.

MBGC training resources updated this year integrate new research and evidence-informed training topics included in the 4th Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, as well as research-informed training regarding the effective assessment and usage of mentee risk data.

Mentoring to Support Dialogue between Youth and Law Enforcement

BGCAIn February 2016, more than 60% of BGCA’s non-military organizations participated in a survey on relationships with law enforcement. Results showed that the vast majority of the organizations surveyed have existing partnerships with law enforcement entities or officers, and most of the ones that do not would like to establish them.

While the survey provides a point of reference for targeted efforts, it also brings to the forefront several promising practices that are derived from partnering with local law enforcement agencies. For example, organizations with law enforcement in Club leadership positions appear to have the deepest partnerships, helping to foster a litany of innovative strategies to ensure community safety, such as locating Clubs in police sub-stations, providing fixed-post officers in Clubs, and enabling police academy cadets to rotate through Clubs.

As we look to the future, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to serving as conveners of the youth / community / law enforcement agency relationship to foster reconciliation, understanding, and healing. In response to the increasing need to build trust and legitimacy within the community and law enforcement relationship, BGCA will launch a Youth-Dialogue Series, a 6-8 week youth-led research and project-based learning strategy, resulting in a dialogue between youth, law enforcement agencies and officials, and other community stakeholders.

The goal of the dialogue series is to:

  • Leverage the leadership abilities of youth to convene youth and law enforcement in a conversation positioned to establish trust and understanding, with the guidance of mentors.
  • Youth identify specific community needs related to the youth/law enforcement relationship.
  • Create a dialogue with teens, families, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to further explore community needs.
  • Develop plans to advance the conversation and determine how the ecosystem of a local Club (volunteers, board members, community partners, mentors, law enforcement agencies, etc.) can strengthen its partnership to address identified needs.
  • Create a space for ongoing and regular dialogue for meaning and solution making.

Club members across the country will explore the distinct themes that are pervasive in their communities as it relates to teen and law enforcement interactions. With the guidance of mentors, Club members will determine the main questions, issues and concerns of their peers; and these research questions will be critical in framing the implementation of a formal dialogue with community stakeholders and law enforcement officials moving forward.

Next Steps

BGCA will garner pre and post dialogue insights from youth to understand youth perceptions of law enforcement agencies and officials. The goal of this data collection is to determine the degree to which youth perceptions change based upon this project and inquiry-based approach. Critical data points are:

  • The % of youth who have seen or personally experienced positive interaction with law enforcement.
  • The % of youth who have seen or personally experience a negative interaction with law enforcement.
  • The % of youth who believe that national law enforcement protect people from crime.
  • The % of youth who believe law enforcement officers treat racial and ethnic groups equally.
  • The % of youth who believe law enforcement officers use the right amount of force for each situation.

BGCA’s Law Enforcement Survey Results

In February 2016, 62% of Boys & Girls Clubs non-military organizations – more than 2,400 Club facilities overall – participated in a survey on their relationships with law enforcement. The survey found that:

  • 92% of surveyed Boys & Girls Club organizations have existing partnerships with law enforcement agencies
  • 56% have members of law enforcement on their advisory board and committees
  • 95% of the organizations that don’t have partnerships with law enforcement would like to establish them
  • 55% of organizations reported that law enforcement officers serve as mentors to youth in Clubs
  • 21% of organizations reported that officers served as coaches
  • Nearly 1 of 3 organizations reported working with law enforcement to recruit high-risk youth into Clubs
  • More than 10% of our organizations reported working in juvenile detention centers

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