Thursday, January 16, 2020: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development (ADOL)
Grace Gowdy, PhD, Boston University
Michelle Munson, PhD, New York University
Adolescents who have caring relationships with non-parental adults also tend to be doing better than their peers without such connections in a variety of developmental domains, including psychosocial and socioemotional, vocational and educational in nature. However, disadvantaged adolescents, such as those from low-income households or who are involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems, are less likely to have these types of relationships. Further, research indicates that when more vulnerable and systems-involved youth participate in formal mentoring programs, they are at greater risk for early termination of the mentoring relationship. Needed are effective ways to connect disadvantaged youth with the kinds of caring adults who can make a difference and improved strategies for sustaining these connections once they are made so that all youth can have access to and reap the benefits of this vital resource for positive youth development. The first paper examines inequities in access to mentoring; in particular, access to the type of mentoring that may best promote economic mobility. Findings from this paper underscore the role demographics and life experiences play in which young people have a naturally-occurring supportive relationships with a caring adult. The second paper investigates the nature and quality of the relationships formed in a mentoring program focused on recruiting foster care youth that uses social work graduate students as mentors. Evidence for the more goal-directed, challenge-focused, approach taken in this program was favorable, but the youth who felt most connected to their mentors also reported that they saw their mentor as more of a “friend” than an authority figure. The final paper focuses on another innovative model developed with the intent to engage hard-to-reach adolescents, the youth-initiated mentoring (YIM) model. In this approach youth identify adults from within their existing social networks to enlisted by a formal program to serve as their mentor. Analysis of in-depth interviews conducted at the time the mentoring relationships were formalized by the program and 9-12 months later indicate that this approach has the potential to foster durable and meaningful connections for youth, including harder to reach youth such as those in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. An expert in the field of mentoring for youth with major mental illness, another hard-to-reach populations, will serve as the discussant and reflect on and integrate the lessons learned and their implications for increasing access to mentoring for all youth.
* noted as presenting author
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