schoolwork, skipped fewer classes, and showed modest gains in their grade point averages. These gains were stron- gest among Little Sisters, particularly minority Little Sisters.
The quality of their relationships with their parents was better for mentored youth than for controls at the end of the study period, primarily due to a higher level of trust between parent and child. This effect was strongest for white Little Brothers.
Mentored youth, especially minority Little Brothers, had improved relation- ships with their peers.
P/PV did not find statistically signifi- cant improvements in self-concept or the number of social and cultural activities in which Little Brothers and Little Sisters participated.
P/PV concluded that the research pre- sented clear and encouraging evidence that mentoring programs can create and support caring relationships between adults and youth, resulting in a wide range of tangible benefits. It was the re- searchers’ judgment that the successes they observed are unlikely without both the relationship with the mentor and the support from the BB/BS program.
The study did not find evidence that any mentoring programming will work but that programs that facilitate the specific types of relationships observed in BB/BS work well. The researchers noted the fol- lowing about the relationships between Little Brothers and Little Sisters and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters:
They had a high level of contact, typi- cally meeting three times per month for 4 hours per meeting. Many had ad- ditional contact by telephone.
The relationships were built using an approach that defines the mentor as a friend, not a teacher or preacher. The mentor’s role is to support the young person in his or her various endeavors, not explicitly to change the youth’s be- havior or character.
The study lists the following elements as prerequisites for an effective mentoring program:
Thorough volunteer screening that weeds out adults who are unlikely to keep their time commitment or who might pose a safety risk to youth.
Mentor training that includes commu- nication and limit-setting skills, tips on relationship-building, and recommen-
dations on the best way to interact with a young person.
Procedures that take into account the preferences of the youth, their fami- lies, and volunteers and that use a pro- fessional case manager to determine which volunteer would work best with each youth.
Intensive supervision and support of each match by a case manager who has frequent contact with the parent or guardian, volunteer, and youth and who provides assistance as difficulties arise.
One of the strongest conclusions of the P/PV study is the importance of pro- viding mentors with support in building trust and developing positive relation- ships with youth. Many of the relation- ships between the volunteers and youth would have faltered and dissolved if they had not been nurtured by BB/BS’s case- workers. Thus to be effective, mentoring programs should provide an infrastruc- ture that fosters and supports the devel- opment of effective relationships.
Over 8 years, P/PV studied numerous mentoring programs other than BB/BS. The extent to which these mentoring pro- grams included standardized procedures in the areas of screening, orientation, training, match supervision and support, matching practices, and regular meeting times varied tremendously. Some pro- grams included virtually none of these elements, while others were highly struc-
tured. The researchers identified three of these areas as vitally important to the success of any mentoring program: screening, orientation and training, and support and supervision.
The screening process provides pro- grams with an opportunity to select adults who are most likely to be success- ful as mentors by looking for individuals who already understand that a mentor’s primary role is to develop a friendship with the youth. Orientation and prematch training provide important opportunities to ensure that youth and their mentors share a common understanding of the adult’s role in these programmatically created relationships and to help mentors develop realistic expectations of what they can accomplish. Ongoing staff super- vision and support of matches is critical to ensuring that mentors and youth meet regularly over a substantial period of time and develop positive relationships.
It is interesting to note that matching did not turn out to be one of the most critical elements. None of the objective factors (e.g., age, race, and gender) that staff take into account when making a match correlate very strongly with the frequency of meetings, length of the match, or its effectiveness. Programs may prefer to make same-race matches, and parents and youth sometimes prefer a mentor of the same race. Programs should continue to honor these prefer- ences and make same-race matches whenever possible. At the same time, it is clear that youth who wait a long time for a same-race mentor are in most cases only delaying the benefits that a mentor of any race can provide.
There are two obstacles to replication of effective mentoring programs: the lim- ited number of adults available to serve as mentors and the scarcity of organiza- tional resources necessary to carry out a successful program. The researchers re- port that between 5 million and 15 million children could benefit from being matched with a mentor; the organization matches only about 75,000 youth in a year. Even with the multitude of smaller mentoring programs around the country, it seems reasonable to conclude that at best just a small percentage of young people are benefiting from mentoring.
In regard to organizational resources, the study notes that effective programs require agencies that take substantial care in recruiting, screening, matching, and supporting volunteers. Paid caseworkers