The Governor’s Prevention Partnership Supports Youth-Initiated Mentoring for Connecticut Youth
The Governor’s Prevention Partnership (The Partnership) has empowered families and communities for over 28 years to reduce the risk of substance abuse, bullying, and violence among Connecticut’s youth. The Partnership is a not-for-profit partnership between state government and business leaders with a mission to keep Connecticut’s youth safe, successful and drug free. Currently co-chaired by Governor Dannell Malloy and a business leader, their seasoned team of prevention professionals works with parents, schools, and organizations to provide effective prevention and intervention strategies to help young people thrive in their communities and personal lives.
The Partnership has provided leadership, training, and resources to mentoring programs throughout the state of Connecticut since 1998. As the state affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, The Partnership brings the latest in mentoring research and evidence-based practices to youth mentoring programs. The organization has raised public awareness, built connections, and created strong peer-to-peer relationships to promote the well-being of Connecticut’s young people.
In October 2012, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (JBCSSD) and The Governor’s Prevention Partnership (The Partnership) entered into an agreement to provide comprehensive mentoring services for court-involved youth statewide who demonstrated mild to moderately challenging behaviors. The Partnership has served as fiduciary for the project since then. Over the past five years, this project has evolved based on internal data review and external research review. Currently, there are seven mentoring programs covering all 12 juvenile probation offices in Connecticut. The project has expanded from traditional, volunteer mentoring for low- to medium-risk youth, to include intensive, paid mentoring for high-risk youth delivered by youth advocates. The mentoring programs are responsible for delivering quality mentoring services for the referred youth and receive ongoing training, technical assistance and support from The Partnership. The overarching goal of the Juvenile Justice Mentoring Network (JJMN) is to reduce recidivism of the young people receiving mentoring services. The JJMN targets 125 youth aged 10-17 with a personal or family challenge, who demonstrate interest in having a mentor, who have few and/or poor connections to positive adults, or who have little to no pro-social involvement.
After several years of innovative work within the JJMN, The Partnership was awarded federal funding from OJJDP to further enhance the mentoring practices in four of Connecticut’s urban communities. Beginning in 2015, Mentoring NOW (New Opportunities Work) has aimed to enhance these mentoring practices with 510 youth aged 6-17 over a three year period by implementing the emerging practice of youth-initiated mentoring, alongside enhanced family engagement practices, to close the mentoring gap and enhance the quality of match relationships. Youth are referred from the Department of Children and Families, Court Support Services Division, or a local Juvenile Review Board and the project includes enhanced training, orientation and coaching for mentees, intense outreach to engage and connect families to programs, services and community resources, and community-based outreach and recruitment of mentors nominated by youth. Each mentoring agency in the Mentoring NOW collaborative has at least one program coordinator to oversee the daily execution and functioning of the work as well as provide initial and ongoing match support and monitoring of the mentors. Similar to the JJMN, The Partnership serves as the fiduciary to the Mentoring NOW network. Mentoring programs in both the JJMN and Mentoring NOW follow the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM.
The most innovative component to the Mentoring NOW model is the implementation of youth-initiated mentoring. This practice engages nonparental adults (teachers, coaches, pastors, community leaders, aunts, uncles, etc.) based on recommendations from enrolled youth. The nominated adult is engaged by the mentoring program staff with permission from youth and parent/caregiver and then receives orientation and training to participate in a more formalized mentoring relationship. Youth-initiated mentoring is a solution to the issue of premature match conclusion that plagues at-risk youth mentor relationships. Premature match closure is a serious issue that leads to ineffectiveness for the young people served. Additionally, when youth are involved in the selection of mentors themselves, they may feel more empowered and become more invested in the match. Youth-initiated mentoring also allows youth to practice the skills that will be necessary for them to identify positive role models in their lives even after mentoring program completion. The Governor’s Prevention Partnership has found that family support is essential in preventing premature match closures, and making a connection with an existing adult figure in the youth’s life may lead to added family support.
Proposed Outcomes of Mentoring NOW (New Opportunities Work) Model
These outcomes have been identified as the target performance measures for the 2nd and 3rd years of the grant:
- Improvement in school performance—attendance, behavior, and positive feelings towards school;
- Improvement in sense of future as demonstrated by the ability to identify goals and the steps needs to accomplish them;
- Improved self-advocacy and ability to access school, community and workplace resources;
- Improvement in goal-setting and problem-solving;
- Improvement in family relationships;
- Development of long-term relationships that last beyond the mentoring program involvement;
- Increased rates of parental/caregiver involvement in school and community.
The Partnership’s expertise is often called upon to support other mentoring programs within their state and across the country with building mentoring programs for court-involved youth and to share lessons learned from implementing youth-initiated mentoring. They are currently in the process of working closely with JBCSSD to gather recidivism data about youth who have been served in the JJMN since 2014, which includes youth who have also received Mentoring NOW services, for the purpose of accessing whether mentoring has an impact on youth recidivism.
Connections to Evidence-Based Practice
The current model utilized by The Governor’s Prevention Partnership is premised on MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership’s 2015 publication, The Elements of Effective Practices for MentoringTM; which stresses the importance of recruitment that is not misleading of the benefits and challenges of mentoring, extensive screening that bolsters safety and aptitude for prosocial modeling, training that guides mentors in addressing mentee areas of need in a culturally responsive manner, matching procedures that strive to correlate mentor/ mentee demographics in meaningful ways, and monitoring by an administrative body which supports the mentee/mentor relationship (e.g., inquiring about the number of contacts and content of meetings, screening for any safety issues, etc.).
The Governor’s Prevention Partnership also incorporated a self-adapted version of the need and responsivity components of Andrews, Bonta, and Hodge’s (1990) revolutionary and empirically-supported Risk, Need, and Responsivity paradigm. This model has been found to be efficacious in exacting significant positive changes in clients engaged in forensic treatment. To inform program design, the general risk for criminal justice involvement and other negative outcomes of the overall target population was assessed by pre-established direct and indirect measures of school performance, poverty, neglect, parental incarceration, rates of crime, and other relevant variables. Risk was considered when determining monthly contact requirements for mentors and mentees. Prior research also highlighted pertinent needs in the family and school domains; these needs logically became the specific targets that mentors and mentoring program providers would focus on. Demographic factors inclusive of language, ethnicity, and gender in the specific communities served are focal in the delivery of the mentoring intervention.
The Mentoring NOW collaborative meets monthly and each meeting includes professional development based on the current needs of the collaborative. The Partnership has in-collaborative expertise to share within the group regularly. Family engagement and emerging youth-initiated mentoring practices are constantly researched and determined and then shared across the collaborative. The collaborative’s goal is to apply to present at the 2019 National Mentoring Summit as well as share findings and successes with mentoring programs statewide. The Partnership, JJMN provider agencies, and Mentoring NOW provider agencies will continue to raise awareness on the benefit of mentoring for juvenile-justice-involved youth, as a prevention and intervention measure; deepen connections with community and faith-based leaders to provide holistic support for at-risk youth; and implement established protocols and tools for programs to integrate family engagement and youth-initiated mentoring into practice, helping to close the mentoring gap by identifying mentors from the youth’s existing social network.
- For more on mentoring for youth and young adults during re-entry from confinement, read the evidence review on this topic, and check out the Key Topics page on mentoring for youth who have been arrested or incarcerated. Or, view the webinar, Restorative Relationships: Elements of Effective Mentoring for Adjudicated Youth, for tips specific to serving young people involved in the juvenile justice system.
- Check out the NMRC practice review of Youth-Initiated Mentoring, as well as the Insights for Practitioners. Read this blog post about Youth-Initiated Mentoring for Disconnected Youth in Nebraska.
- Read the review of evidence on the mentoring practice of Family Engagement.
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