A common strategy for helping youth is to set them up into a mentoring program. With most African-American boys being reared in a female-headed household, pairing boys with a positive male role model seems to be a great solution to meeting the needs of those boys. There are any number of programs all over the country—ranging in size from small, informal programs to large, nationwide programs like the National Cares Mentoring Movement (for boys and girls) founded by former editor in chief, Susan L. Taylor. Mentoring is used by various agencies and entities, like schools, juvenile justice, and public health. The Association for Psychological Science has studied mentoring programs to discover what seems to help mentored children and what seems to hurt them. Their findings were recorded in a report in their journal, Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
David DuBois, a professor of Community Health Sciences at the University at Chicago, and others report that findings support the notion that, generally speaking, mentoring programs are beneficial in improving children’s “outcomes across behavioral, social, emotional, and academic domains, and they can help improve outcomes in several of these areas at the same time.” These improvements appear to be modest, however, and it is not clear if these benefits are long lasting. Furthermore, the findings are not conclusive about whether or not mentoring prevents dropping out of school, entrance into the juvenile justice system, substance abuse, or the prevention of obesity.
Mentoring has some limitations. It appears to be best for youth who are at risk, but it is not adequate for those with significant problems. Connecting mentors to mentees who have similar interests probably creates a more natural, stronger bond between the two and benefits the mentees the most. Mentoring programs that create a way for the mentor to provide guidance and to become an advocate for the mentee are the best for youth. Mentors need to strike a balance that keeps their mentees from viewing them as one more adult telling them what to do while not “crossing boundaries and becoming over-involved in a youth’s life.”
DuBois and his group assert that policymakers should use evidence-based practices that include things like mentor screening and training.