The Construction and Implementation of an Empirically-Based Economic Mentoring Program for Youth Impacted by the Juvenile Justice System
Julia M. Pryce, PhD, Loyola University, Chicago, David L. DuBois, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Danielle Nowlan, Loyola University, Chicago.
Background: Youth mentoring programs youth have become immensely popular, but have indicated only modest effects across various youth outcomes. One factor that may contribute to the limited success of programs is that few have applied a systematic, empirically-driven framework (DuBois & Silverthorn, 2005) in development. In the present action-research project, a partnership between two universities and a community agency is building an economic mentoring program model to use with youth impacted by the juvenile justice system. This development process is supported by promising evidence as derived from similar research on the development of a mentoring program for urban adolescent girls and their mentors (DuBois et al., in press). In this presentation, the development process as well as preliminary findings pertaining to the development of the resulting program, “FutureBuilders”, will be discussed. Method: Several frameworks are available to inform empirically-guided approaches to intervention development. These frameworks consistently emphasize four categories of activity important to program development, including: 1) review of relevant theoretical, empirical, and intervention literature; 2) obtaining input from stakeholder groups; 3) piloting intervention activities and materials with the target population; and 4) a piloting and feasibility study in which the full intervention is implemented and evaluated. Activities in the first three of these four areas have been conducted to date. Results: The literature review revealed that for juvenile offenders, unstructured mentoring programs that are disconnected from the juvenile justice system “hold no promise as a comprehensive method” (Blechman & Bopp, 2005; 463). Rather, evidence supports a more structured, goal-oriented approach to program development, which has been instituted through the proposed economic mentoring model. Further, mentors should be conceived as part of a system of youth supports, a principle also reflected in the nesting of this project within the larger juvenile justice system. The proposed model also aims to use a ‘client-centric' focus in providing the youth with both instrumental (e.g., investment experience, job training and employment) and relational (e.g., connection with mentor(s), other program staff, and peers) opportunities for pro-social development. Stakeholder interviews were then used to assess the viability and relevance of the emerging economic mentoring model. These interviews, conducted with mentors, youth, parents of youth impacted by the juvenile justice system, system authorities, social service providers, and stakeholders within the finance communities helped to further refine and develop the model. Select interview participants have since served as an Advisory Council to the program development team. In collaboration with four community-based agencies, implementation of this program has begun with a set of 48 mentors, youth, and youth parents. Implications: This process has illuminatated strengths and challenges that accompany the implementation of an empirically-driven model with youth who are already identified as high risk. Lessons learned highlight the importance of maintaining an Advisory Council and other participatory mechanisms through which to obtain continuous feedback from the community throughout development. Further, application of a collective, network-based approach to mentoring and provision of a systematic, intensive program suggests preliminary but positive outcomes in terms of attendance, retention, and relationship quality.