Support for Match Closure
Evidence Rating for this Practice:
Insufficient Research (1 Study and 3 Tests of the Practice)
In the study reviewed, the methodology used for assessing effects of the practice did not meet relevant criteria for rigor. As a result, the study was designated as Insufficient Evidence and the practice as a whole is designated as Insufficient Research. This rating is based on currently available research and may change as new research becomes available.
Description of Practice:
Support for match closure involves efforts by the mentoring program to ensure that the relationship ending process is handled in a way that is beneficial to both youth and mentors. Closure constitutes one of the core standards of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (4th edition) and is described as follows: “Facilitate bringing the match to closure in a way that affirms the contributions of the mentor and mentee, and offers them the opportunity to prepare for the closure and assess the experience.” Specific goals may be to help the mentee(s) and mentor(s) appreciate positive aspects of their experiences together and to help them identify ways in which they can draw beneficially on these experiences in future relationships (Spencer & Basualdo-Delmonico, 2014). Mentoring programs may seek to support mentoring relationship closure in a variety of ways. These include establishing mentoring relationship closure policies and procedures, training mentors, youth, and parents on healthy approaches to ending mentor-mentee relationships, providing on-going support and guidance to mentors on healthy match closure activities, and setting time for mentors and mentees to discuss the ending of their relationships in a positive and constructive manner with the facilitation of program staff. Program efforts to support mentoring relationship closure can also take the form of setting contingency plans for how closure will be handled under special circumstances, such as when the mentor(s) or mentee(s) involved are unwilling or unavailable to engage in the process or a mentoring relationship is being closed in the best interest of the mentee. Still further possibilities include assessment of relationships status as to the potential need for closure either in response to emergent concerns (e.g., a mentor, mentee, or parent signals relationship problems) or at regular intervals. Information gathered during the relationship closure process may be useful in helping to assess the appropriateness of re-engaging the mentee(s) and/or mentor(s) involved in additional mentoring relationships through the program and, if so, their likely support needs and the characteristics of mentor(s) or mentee(s) with whom they may be most appropriately paired. Support for mentoring relationship closure is distinguished from “re-matching” practices that have these types of determinations as their primary aim.
The primary goal of the practice is to support healthy closure of mentoring relationships.
Targeted Forms of Mentoring and Youth Populations:
This practice is potentially applicable to all forms of mentoring and the full range of youth who may be served by programs.
Theory and Background Research:
The focus of this practice on supporting healthy endings to mentoring relationships is consistent with Rhodes’ model of youth mentoring, which suggests that both positive and negative relationship experiences can influence the emotional development of the mentee (Rhodes, 2005; Rhodes et al., 2006). The potential for support for match closure to positively influence the mentee’s perception of the relationship, or at least his or her contributions to the relationship, and to facilitate the mentee’s ability to develop secure attachments to others in the future is also suggested by attachment theory (Spencer & Basualdo-Delmonico, 2014). In line with this idea, research has linked positive relationship experiences to improvements in the mentee’s relationships with others (Rhodes, 2005; Rhodes et al., 2006). It follows, therefore, that mentoring relationships that do not end well (for example, without adequate opportunity for the mentor and mentee to express and explore their feelings about the ending) may negatively influence not only how the mentee and mentor perceive the relationship, but also socioemotional and possibly other outcomes for the mentee (Rhodes et al., 2006). Keller (2005) similarly noted that although a mentoring relationship may come to an end for a number of reasons, including conflict, the end of the program, or a mentee’s move out of the program area, careful management of the termination process in all instances may provide beneficial opportunities for learning as well as for resolving feelings of loss or abandonment, particularly for the mentee.
In a recent qualitative study of several hundred Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Matches (the STAR Project), Keller and Spencer (2017) explored in-depth the contribution of youth and relationship characteristics to match closure with a number of informative results. Their findings, for example, point toward the importance of both the mentor-youth experience and the network of relationships surrounding the match. More specifically, they found that matches ended when mentors and youth did not feel a shared sense of connection, even when the relationships surrounding the match (i.e. the mentor-parent, mentor-MSS, and parent-MSS relationships) were strong. Conversely, even in matches in which the mentor-mentee dyad was able to form a connection, such connections were difficult to sustain when there were disruptions in the other relationships surrounding the dyad. In this analysis, only about one-quarter involved an in-person final meeting between mentor and mentee (Keller & Spencer, 2017), and the risk of early match closure was greatest for mentors who were unsure at the onset how long they wanted the relationship to last, and for parents who wanted the relationship to last less than one year (Keller & Spencer, 2017). Managing relationship expectations (including relationship length) throughout the match is likely to be an important component of reducing risk of early closure and also managing the end of mentoring relationships. An earlier qualitative study of mentoring relationship endings found that even though youth tended to express feelings of disappointment regardless of how the relationship ended, relationship endings that were not executed well (the researchers identified these as endings that were planned but not completed, were abrupt, or were led by the agency due to no contact between mentor and youth over an extended period of time or at the request of the mentor, youth, or parent) appeared to create more pronounced negative feelings among the youth and their parents (e.g., a reversal of prior positive views of the mentoring relationship, a reluctance to get involved in another mentoring relationship) (Spencer et al., 2014).
One practice that may provide additional support to mentors in navigating their role in the match relationship may support from “veteran” mentors affiliated with an agency. In a study of BBBS Community- and Site-Based Matches, peer support from more experienced mentors was found to be associated significantly with longer match relationships and a reduced risk of early match closure (Peaslee & Teye, 2015). In comparison with a control (standard) condition, BBBS mentors receiving peer support were 80.3% less likely to have matches that closed early, and mentors receiving peer support in combination with additional training were 59.6% less likely to have matches that closed early. This type of ongoing support may help newer mentors manage their expectations about their mentoring relationships in a way that lessens the risk of early closure and could also help mentors effectively navigate the ending of match relationships.
Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:
This practice corresponds directly to the area of Closure in the Elements of Effective Practice and is also relevant to the areas of Training and Monitoring and Support.
The successful implementation of this practice is likely to require staff to have foundational knowledge of the various stages of relationships as well as strong interpersonal skills (e.g., ability to help mentors and mentees identify and explore both negative and positive feelings they may have about their relationships). Of key importance in all instances is likely to be program staff attunement to how matches are developing or progressing and when a match closure may be beneficial.
Study 1 (Three tests of the practice: Overall Support for Match Closure; Mentor Training for Match Closure, Mentor Support for Match Closure)
Overall Support for Match Closure – Insufficient Evidence
Mentor Training for Match Closure – Insufficient Evidence
Mentor Support for Match Closure – Insufficient Evidence
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) (2016) examined correlates of support for match closure as part of an evaluation of programmatic enhancement to its In-Schools Mentoring Program (ISM). At the time of the research, the ISM program provided mentors to 12,000 students through almost all 118 BBBSC agencies. Volunteer mentors were screened and trained and engaged in one-on-one, one hour, weekly meetings with elementary school students in the school setting throughout the school year. Activities were collaboratively selected by the mentee and mentor and were aimed at fostering confidence and improving attitudes towards school, peers, and other adults.
The evaluation was conducted in 10 agencies, which collectively served about 1,300 students during the study period. Four programmatic enhancements/modifications were selected and each was implemented in at least one agency. The match closure modification consisted of the following: a) providing mentors with information on how to discuss closure with their mentees (Littles) during their initial training; preparing mentors, mentees, and parents for closure during match support contacts (i.e., they were informed that relationships would close at the end of the school year; and mentors and mentees were asked to think of ways they would like to say goodbye); asking mentors to hold a ‘last meeting’ during which the mentor and youth could say goodbye and review and celebrate the time they spent together; having program staff hold individual last meetings with mentors and mentees; and mentors and mentees receiving written recognition of match completion (i.e., letters and certificates).
Data were collected from mentors across participating agencies at the beginning (baseline) and end (follow-up) of the school year on their perceptions of program quality, quality of staff support, mentoring relationship quality, and likelihood of continuation in the program in the following school year. Program quality was measured using a 4-item scale (e.g., “the mentoring program is clear about its goals”, “I received sufficient training from the mentoring program prior to beginning my match”). Quality of staff support was assessing using 3 items (e.g., “program staff seem truly concerned about how well our match is going”, “program staff help make me a better mentor”). Relationship quality was measured using a 9-item scale (e.g., “I think my Little sees me as someone special in his/her life”, “I feel close to my Little”). Likelihood of continuation was measured with a single item: “How likely is it that you will be mentoring in this program next year?” Response options for the above questions were on a 5-point scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).
Baseline data were provided by 55 mentors and follow-up data were provided by 34 mentors at the match closure modification agencies. Mentors from the match closure agencies were more likely to be female (81 percent) than male. Most Littles (67 percent) served by these agencies in the ISM program were also female and 78 percent were in Grades 1 to 6. Statistical tests were conducted to determine whether there was a difference in the above referenced measures from baseline to follow-up among mentors in match closure agencies (Practice 1). Tests were also conducted to determine the relationship between outcome measures at post-test and mentor training for match closure (Practice 2), which was assessed by asking mentors if they received information about how to discuss closure and say goodbye to their Little in their initial training. Similar tests were conducted with regard to mentor support for match closure (Practice 3), which was assessed by asking mentors if match support staff reminded them to discuss closure with their Littles.
BBBSC (2016) found that mentors in the match closure agencies had significantly lower ratings of quality of staff support at follow-up in comparison to baseline but did not differ significantly from baseline to follow-up in their ratings of program quality, mentoring relationship quality, or reported likelihood of continuing in the program the following year.
Mentor reports of program quality, quality of staff support, mentoring relationship quality, and likelihood of continuing in the program the following year were not associated with whether they reported having received information on match closure during their initial training. However, whether mentors reported having received reminders to discuss closure with their Little was positively and significantly associated with mentor reports of program quality and quality of staff support. Reports of receiving these reminders was not related significantly to mentor reports of relationship quality or likelihood of continuing in the program the following year.
External Validity Evidence:
Variations in the Practice
The study reviewed examined a variety of match closure practices. More specifically, the study examined support for match closure provided through mentor training and match support as well as through final closure meetings involving the mentor, mentee, and staff and formal recognition of match completion. However, although the programmatic enhancements in support of match closure were targeted towards mentors, mentees, and parents, the study examined only the potential effects of those directed to mentors. The implications of varying levels and types of support for match closure directed toward these participants thus have not been examined.
The study reviewed provides limited information on the demographic and background characteristics of the youth served by the program involved, other than that they were predominantly female and elementary school-age. No tests were conducted for potential differences in effects of the strategies examined in relation to these characteristics. Evaluations of support for match closure with a broader spectrum of youth will be necessary to clarify the manner and extent to which its implications vary across subgroups of youth.
Similar to youth, relatively little is known about the characteristics of the mentors represented in the study reviewed, other than that they were predominantly female (76%) and all volunteers; no tests were conducted for possible differences in effects of practice strategies in relation to gender or other mentor characteristics. The applicability of findings to different subgroups of mentors, other than volunteers, is thus largely unknown.
The mentoring program evaluated in the study reviewed was the school-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Canada, which utilized a one-on-one mentoring format. Understanding of the implications of support for match closure across the broader spectrum of program settings and structures (e.g., group, community-based) is therefore lacking.
Outcomes assessed in the study reviewed related to the quality of the mentoring relationship, program, and staff support, all as rated by the mentor, and the likelihood that the mentor would continue in the program the following year. Neither these outcomes from the perspective of youth or parents or youth adjustment outcomes were assessed, which clearly limits understanding of the implications that the practices examined may have had.
Resources Available to Support Implementation:
Resources to support implementation of support for match closure can be found under the Resources section of this website. These resources include:
Effective Strategies for Providing Quality Youth Mentoring in Schools and Communities: Generic Mentoring Program Policy and Procedure Manual – This guide provides advice and a customizable template for creating an operations manual for a mentoring program, including policy and procedures for mentoring relationship closure.
Going the Distance: A Guide to Building Lasting Relationships in Mentoring Programs – This guidebook provides advice and tools that are intended to help ensure long-lasting relationships in site- and community-based mentoring programs. It identifies match closure as a necessary component of mentoring programs that should be incorporated into policies, procedures, and training.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. (2016). In School Mentoring Modification Project report. Unpublished report.
Keller, T. E. (2005). The stages and development of mentoring relationships. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 82–99). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Keller, T. E., & Spencer, R. (2017). Prediction and prevention of premature closures of mentoring relationships: The Study To Analyze Relationships (STAR Project). Portland, OR: Portland State University (Final technical report submitted to OJJDP). Available at: https://bit.ly/2wHbboi
Peaslee, L., & Teye, A. C. (2015). Testing the impact of mentor training and peer support on the quality of mentor-mentee relationships and outcomes for at-risk youth. Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University (Final technical report submitted to OJJDP). Available at: https://bit.ly/2LXH1SL
Rhodes, J. E. (2005). A model of youth mentoring. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 30–43). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Rhodes, J. E., Spencer, R., Keller, T. E., Liang, B., & Noam, G. (2006). A model for the influence of mentoring relationships on youth development. Journal of Community Psychology, 34, 691–707. https://www.rhodeslab.org/files/Model.pdf
Spencer, R., & Basualdo-Delmonico, A. (2014). Termination and closure of mentoring relationships. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (2nd ed., pp. 469–479). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Spencer, R., Basualdo-Delmonico, A., Walsh, J., & Drew A. L. (2014). Breaking up is hard to do: A qualitative interview study of how and why youth mentoring relationships end. Youth & Society, 1–23. http://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X14535416