January | February 2019

Research Central: OJJDP Study Examines Teaching and Advocacy Roles for Mentors

Photo of a mentor and his mentee.In 2012, OJJDP launched the Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program (MEDP) and evaluation to study the effects of incorporating teaching roles (e.g., organizing activities to develop skills or knowledge, providing assistance with schoolwork) and advocacy roles (e.g., facilitating access to community resources, collaborating with other professionals to support the mentee) for mentors. To help mentors successfully build in these functions, participating agencies were expected to provide mentors with preliminary as well as ongoing training, guidance, and support.

The goal of MEDP was to develop program models that specified what advocacy and teaching look like in practice, understand what factors might influence the adoption of these enhanced mentoring roles, and determine whether the enhancements could influence youth outcomes. OJJDP awarded funding to 10 mentoring collaboratives, which included a total of 32 mentoring sites. The programs varied widely in their geographical locations, size, experience in mentoring, and structure of their mentoring programs. Nearly 2,200 youth mentees participated, most of whom were between the ages of 11 and 15.

OJJDP managed and coordinated the project in close collaboration with American Institutes for Research (AIR) and a senior design team; specialists in data management and program development; and program staff from the participating mentoring agencies. AIR conducted a rigorous process and outcome evaluation involving a randomized controlled trial that compared the new enhancements to “business-as-usual” mentoring at the programs; it also included an analysis of data from program records and surveys of youth, mentors, and parents. Following are some of the evaluation’s findings:

  • Among mentors with previous experience in one of the helping professions (e.g., ministry, social work, education), youth who received the mentoring enhancements saw significant improvements relative to the control group in a range of areas, including conflict management, emotional well-being, and problem solving. These results suggest that there may be a population of volunteers who are particularly well suited to incorporating teaching and advocacy functions into their role.
  • The incorporation of teaching and advocacy functions into the mentor's role had a direct positive effect on the duration of the mentor-mentee match, whether the youth rated the relationship as focusing on "growth," and whether the youth indicated the mentor was considered to be a "special adult."
  • Mentors who incorporated the enhancements reported that they were more committed to the mentoring relationship, engaged in more hours of training, used a greater number of support activities to help them do their work, and had a better quality of relationship with program staff than did the control group.
  • The more training mentors received, the more likely they were to assume the teaching and advocacy roles as well as spend time with the mentee and the mentee's family.
  • The challenge of getting mentors to attend post-match trainings was a major barrier to successful implementation. Most of the mentors who attended enhanced training sessions, however, found them helpful and used tips or pointers offered in these sessions.
  • At the 12-month followup, the enhancements had no statistically significant effect over the regular mentoring approach, either positive or negative, on longer term youth outcomes such as academic performance, involvement in delinquency, and behavior in school. Possible explanations, which merit further consideration and research, include inconsistent implementation of the enhancements, the possibility that many of the sites already encouraged the incorporation of teaching and advocacy roles into their regular mentoring programs, and the likelihood that it takes longer than 12 months to observe benefits from mentoring.


To learn more about MEDP, access a recorded two-part webinar recently organized by OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center. The first and second parts of the webinar are titled, respectively, “Lessons Learned From the Implementation of the Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program” and “Findings From the Outcome Evaluation of the Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program.”

The National Mentoring Resource Center has launched a series of blogs highlighting approaches to teaching and advocacy that were developed by several of the OJJDP-funded organizations.

To read a technical report and appendices describing the findings of the MEDP evaluation, visit the website of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.