January | February 2019

OJJDP Administrator's Video Message: The Life-Changing Power of Mentoring

January was National Mentoring Month, an annual campaign to promote youth mentoring across the country. We know that a consistent relationship with a caring adult can make all the difference in a young person’s life—by increasing self-esteem and academic achievement, improving peer relationships, and decreasing the likelihood of substance abuse and delinquency.

Many young people have access to mentors—either in their family or through a community mentoring program. Unfortunately, many more do not. According to research conducted by MENTOR: The Mentoring Partnership, 9 million at-risk kids are growing up in America without an adult they can turn to.

To address this urgent need, OJJDP supports mentoring programs and services across the country. In fiscal year 2018, under the Mentoring Opportunities for Youth initiative, we awarded more than $77 million to 36 organizations in 21 states.

This year, we expanded our reach significantly. For the first time, nine grant awards will offer mentoring services to youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and grantees will work closely with juvenile courts and probation agencies to foster the best possible outcomes for court-involved youth. In addition, 12 new grant awards specifically target youth affected by the opioid epidemic, and grantees will partner with state and local substance abuse agencies to assist youth in combating the impact of addiction in their lives.

OJJDP works to increase mentoring opportunities for youth and to improve the quality and impact of the mentoring they receive. OJJDP focuses research on translating mentoring research into practice. We disseminate information about research-informed practices, integrate research findings into our programs, and support ongoing evaluation and assessments.

In 2015, OJJDP officially launched the National Mentoring Resource Center in partnership with MENTOR. Under the guidance of a research board composed of leading experts in the field, the center offers a wealth of information on mentoring research and best practices. In addition, the center’s website provides access to no-cost training and technical assistance.

At the end of January, OJJDP joined with other agencies and organizations to cosponsor the annual National Mentoring Summit. This event convenes youth mentoring professionals, researchers, philanthropic investors, and government and civic leaders to expand and strengthen mentoring practices. OJJDP hosted an orientation session before the summit to train new mentoring grantees on federal requirements and best-practice standards. We also presented findings from our mentoring research. You can read more about the summit and our research in this issue of OJJDP News @ a Glance.

On a personal note, I want to thank the practitioners, researchers, and volunteer mentors whose dedication and hard work are transforming the lives of children and youth. Although National Mentoring Month is officially observed only one month each year, your commitment makes a difference to kids every day—all year long. We at OJJDP are honored to support you in this important effort.