ACT for Youth Center of Excellence

STYA: Mentoring

STYA: MentoringThrough STYA programs, youth have the opportunity to develop trusting relationships with caring adults -- a key protective factor at the heart of young people's capacity for resilience. Mentoring (STYA component 1A) is one of the ways that the STYA initiative fosters these relationships.

The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) defines mentoring as "a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals (adults) who offer guidance, support, and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee." STYA programs that offer mentoring use one or more of the following models:

  • Traditional one-to-one mentoring, which might include:
    • Agency-facilitated mentors (the agency recruits, matches, orients, and supports youth and adults who participate in the program)
    • School-based teacher mentors (youth are matched with teachers, coaches, and other youth professionals; mentoring occurs during and/or after the school day)
    • Natural mentors (youth select a mentor from adults they know and admire in their daily lives and then negotiate a mentoring relationship)
    • Service-learning mentors (adults connected with a service organization or project regularly interact with youth, supported by program staff)
  • Small group mentoring (one adult with up to four youth)
  • Team mentoring (more than one adult working with youth, with a mentee/mentor relationship of no more than 4:1)
Peer and online mentoring are not offered through STYA.

To be effective, mentoring relationships must last at least one calendar or school year. Shorter commitments may harm rather than help participants. MENTOR has identified additional evidence-based benchmarks in this Checklist for Mentoring Programs (PDF).

Note: STYA programs have the option of reimbursing mentors for reasonable receipted costs incurred for the mentored youth during mentoring activities. Those programs that opt for this alternative should develop guidelines and reimbursement policies and limits for selected activities.

Screening Volunteers

All mentors working with youth must undergo a comprehensive and rigorous screening process. Screening should include completion of an application, personal interview, personal and professional reference checks, and criminal background checks. Other checks, such as child abuse and sexual offender registries and motor vehicle records, should also be used (see resources below).


Program Design and Effective Practice

This ACT for Youth fact sheet summarizes research on mentoring and discusses how to increase mentoring opportunities.

MENTOR is a leading supporter of youth mentoring in the United States. MENTOR develops resources for mentoring programs and promotes quality mentoring through standards, cutting-edge research, and state-of-the-art tools.

Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring
This MENTOR publication includes six evidence-based standards addressing mentor and mentee recruitment; screening; training; matching; monitoring and support; and closure. Each standard provides benchmarks for day-to-day operations. This resource also includes a section on practical advice in building a new mentoring program or strengthening an existing one. It focuses on program design and planning; program management; and program evaluation. The link above will also connect you to a toolkit to help you put the elements of effective practice into use.

What Works for Mentoring Programs: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions
Child Trends conducted a synthesis of experimental evaluations of 19 mentoring programs for children and youth, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, to determine how frequently these programs work to improve such outcomes as education, mental health, peer and parent relationships, and behavior problems, and what lessons can be learned to improve outcomes.

Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring
Offered by the University of Massachusetts at Boston and MENTOR, this extensive online magazine provides mentoring research, resources, expert opinion, and opportunities for interaction.

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America offers information on one-to-one mentoring and documented research demonstrating the positive impact of this program.

Volunteer Screening, Background Checks, and Training

New York State Office of Children and Family Services: School-Age Child Care (PDF)
This page links to regulations that must be followed by agencies providing care to school-age children. See "Child Abuse and Maltreatment" for screening requirements.

Guide to Screening and Background Checks (PDF)
This guide from the U.S. Department of Education Mentoring Program offers an overall framework for screening and specific tools that can be used in the process. It offers an eight-step outline of how to screen applicants, from the initial orientation through the match and beyond. There are descriptions of several types of background checks (from criminal history to driving records), and sample forms and worksheets are included in appendices.

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-Serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures (PDF)
This CDC guide identifies six key components of child sexual abuse prevention for organizations, including screening and selecting employees and volunteers. Prevention goals and strategies are included for each component.