Research shows that having support from at least one permanent, caring adult can have a positive effect on a foster youth’s life trajectory (Howard & Berzin, 2011
). Specifically, dedicated, long-lasting mentorship can help youth establish and maintain healthy relationships, express feelings and emotions, and develop healthy self-esteem (Williams, 2011
). Short-term volunteer mentoring approaches, have been shown to have small to modest impacts in the short run, and limited impacts over the long term (DuBois et al., 2002
). Unfortunately, many mentoring programs, despite carefully selecting and training mentors, simply do not sustain their relationships long enough to make meaningful and positive changes in young people's lives. In fact, research has found that roughly half of formal mentoring relationships end within a few months (Wandersman et al., 2006
). This symposium examines the potential of using professional mentors (Friends of the Children) to achieve stronger prevention outcomes for youth. This long-term, comprehensive professional mentoring approach enables the intervention to be sustained through the multiple home and school placements often encountered by our most vulnerable children.
This symposium will focus on three presentations. The first reports findings from a cross-site RCT, which began in 2007, known as The Child Study. The study has been examining outcomes from a panel of professionally mentored youth from Friends of the Children compared to a randomized control group. The session will provide outcomes after 4.4 years of FOTC mentoring. The second paper uses data from the same study to examine retention in the mentoring program for the most vulnerable children. Finally, the third paper provides a summary of 3 studies (2 qualitative and 1 quantitative) related to using para professionals to provide mentoring with youth and families in poverty. This session offers support for the important role that mentoring can play in the healthy development of vulnerable children.