Vulnerable Youth: Federal Mentoring Programs and Issues
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Fernandes-Alcantara, Adrienne L.
[Excerpt] The purpose of contemporary, structured mentoring programs is to reduce risks by supplementing (but not supplanting) a youth’s relationship with his or her parents. These programs are administered by mostly adult volunteers who are recruited by youth serving organizations, faith based organizations, schools, and after school programs. Some of these programs have broad youth development goals, while others focus more narrowly on a particular outcome such as reducing gang activity or substance abuse, or improving grades. Research has shown that mentoring programs have been associated with some positive youth outcomes, but that the long term ability of mentoring to produce particular outcomes and the ability for mentored youth to sustain gains over time are less certain. Since the mid 1990s, Congress supported mentoring programs for the most vulnerable youth. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP), the first such program, was implemented in 1994 to provide mentoring services for at risk youth ages 5 to 20. Although there is no single overarching policy today on mentoring, the federal government has supported multiple mentoring efforts for vulnerable youth since JUMP was discontinued in FY2003. Previously, two mentoring programs the Mentoring Children of Prisoners (MCP) program and Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFS) Mentoring program provided a significant source of federal funding for mentoring services. However, the programs were short lived: the MCP was administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from FY2003 through FY2011 and the SDFS program was administered by the Department of Education (ED) from FY2002 through FY2010. The federal government currently funds mentoring efforts through short term grants and initiatives, primarily carried out by DOJ. DOJ has allocated funding for multiple initiatives through its Mentoring program, including mentoring for certain vulnerable youth and research on mentoring. In addition, the federal government has provided funding to programs with vulnerable youth that have a strong, but not exclusive, mentoring component. Youth ChalleNGe, an educational and leadership program for at risk youth administered by the Department of Defense (DOD), helps to engage youth in work and school, and leadership opportunities. Adult mentors assist enrolled youth with their transition from the program for at least one year. Finally, federal agencies coordinate on mentoring issues. The Federal Mentoring Council was created in 2006 to address the ways agencies can combine resources and training and technical assistance to federally administered mentoring programs, and to serve as a clearinghouse on mentoring issues for the federal government. The council has been inactive since 2008. This report begins with an overview of the goals of mentoring, including a brief discussion on research of structured mentoring programs. The report then describes the evolution of federal policies on mentoring since the early 1990s. The report provides an overview of the federal mentoring initiatives that are currently funded. While additional federal programs and policies authorize funding for mentoring activities, among multiple other activities and services, such programs are not discussed in this report. The report concludes with an overview of issues that may be of interest to Congress. These issues include the limitations of research on outcomes for mentored youth, the quality of mentoring programs, and the potential need for additional mentors.
vulnerable youth; mentoring; employment; federal programs