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U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Shay Bilchik, Administrator

Jean Baldwin Grossman and

Eileen M. Garry

In the past decade, mentoring pro- grams for disadvantaged children and adolescents have received serious atten- tion as a promising approach to enriching children’s lives, addressing their need for positive adult contact, and providing one- on-one support and advocacy for those who need it. Mentoring is also recognized as an excellent way to use volunteers to address the problems created by poverty (Freedman, 1992).

BB/BS programs across the Nation pro- vide screening and training to volunteer mentors and carefully match the mentors with “little brothers” and “little sisters” in need of guidance. Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) performed an 18-month experi- mental evaluation of eight BB/BS mentoring programs that considered so- cial activities, academic performance, at- titudes and behaviors, relationships with

Through a mentoring relationship, adult volunteers and participating youth make a significant commitment of time and energy to develop relationships de- voted to personal, academic, or career development and social, athletic, or artis- tic growth (Becker, 1994). Programs his- torically have been based in churches, colleges, communities, courts, or schools and have focused on careers or hobbies.

The child mentoring movement had its roots in the late 19th century with “friendly visitors” who would serve as role models for children of the poor. In 1904 Ernest K. Coulter founded a new movement that used “big brothers” to reach out to children who were in need of socialization, firm guidance, and connec- tion with positive adult role models. The resulting program, Big Brothers/Big Sis- ters (BB/BS) of America, continues to op- erate today as the largest mentoring orga- nization of its kind.

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April 1997

From the Administrator

All children need caring adults in their lives, and mentoring is one way to fill this need for at-risk children. The special bond of commitment fostered by the mutual respect inherent in effective mentoring can be the tie that binds a young person to a better future.

OJJDP’s Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP) is designed to reduce delin- quency and improve school attendance for at-risk youth. Mentoring is also one component of our SafeFutures initiative, which assists communities to combat delinquency by developing a full range of coordinated services. In addition to JUMP and SafeFutures, OJJDP sup- ports mentoring efforts in individual States through our Formula Grants Program funding.

With nearly a century of experience, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America is probably the best known mentoring program in the United States. The extensive evaluation of this pioneer program by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), described in this Bulletin, provides new insights that merit our attention.

The P/PV evaluation and OJJDP’s 2-year experience with JUMP suggest that strengthening the role of mentoring as a component of youth programming may pay handsome dividends in improved school performance and reduced antisocial behavior, including alcohol and other drug abuse.

Shay Bilchik Administrator

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